Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Done With Paul For Awhile

I was quite pleased yesterday when Paul gave in to Liz. It seemed perfectly in keeping with his character and launched him down the pathway well-trod by Warren Blackwood and Eric Chamberlein before him.

I followed a link to the Houston Chronicle today, which had For Better or For Worse strips archived on-line going back to September, 2001. It was about a 1 ½ years before the 2003 on-line archive at the FboFW website. I have to admit that I remember reading the stuff, but back in those days I was paying only a minimal attention to the characters as I read in them in the paper and I certainly was not as emotionally involved then as I am now. But I did find the chronology of it interesting. It is difficult to tell how things work out age-wise with the collections because they mix the strips up and remove the dates of publication.

In September, 2001, Liz suspected Eric was cheating on her, and Rudy and Candace told her this was the case. She was in her second year of university. The fascinating part to me was the way the physical language was between Rudy and Candace and Eric and Liz. Rudy and Candace really kissed each other and so did Eric and Liz. Not only that but Liz told Eric she loved him several times. Here is the other interesting part, Mike and Dee really kissed each other. In fact, there was one great strip when Weed finds Mike and Dee an apartment where Dee gives Weed a really nice kiss as a thank you. Even more frightening are the strips where John gives Elly a big kiss. The strip is very different today, in its nonsexual approach to everything.

During the holiday period of 2001, I got to see the part where Anthony meets Liz again for the first time since high school. I suddenly realized that Anthony tells Liz that he proposed to Thérèse after he learned that Liz had moved in with Eric. He proposed to Thérèse in his second year of university, which means he was 20 or 21 years old. That’s so young. Then as he is telling Liz this, he has his hands all over Liz. The body language and the dialogue were striking. This was a storyteller in full control of her art.

Then came the strips of February, 2002 and it was like being hit by a sledgehammer. This is when Lynn Johnston turned the art and possibly the writing over to someone else. Prior to this point, there were actually silent panels as the final panel to tell a joke visually and not a pun. After that always a pun. We went from a strip written by a woman who was firing on all cylinders at the top of her game to some hack substitute. And as I read through this sequence, I realized why the people who used to love the strip became so upset when this change occurred. This is not to say that there have not been some funny things in the strip in the last 4 years, but whole tone of the strip was altered and the person who took over was not nearly as talented as Lynn Johnston.

Because of this, I feel almost certain that Constable Paul Wright is headed down the same primrose path as Eric, and Warren, and Rhetta Blum before him. He will be portrayed as yet another man who betrays Liz and reveals himself to be “not Anthony.” I have really enjoyed doing the Ojibway and Ontario Provincial Police research on Paul, and when I do that, I realize what a great character this could have been. Lynn could have explored race relations, the treatment of the Ojibway in modern society, and the way First Nations people distrust whites and policemen. It’s sad to see a great idea poorly handled. But I enjoyed doing Paul Wright, with little mixtures of Ojibway words in his language and his unique perspective on things. We have probably seen the last of him in the strip, not counting his final farewell where he reveals himself to betray Liz so she can marry Anthony without a guilty conscience. But so long as he is still considered to be Liz’ boyfriend, then I can still play with him.

Tomorrow’s strip: Someone claiming to be Jesse Mukwa pops in and sprays Liz with yet more Mtigwaki smackdown. After Vivian and Paul beat up her, I think Liz is going to be really happy to get out of that place.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Knew It!!!

I just knew that Liz wasn’t going to dump Paul and he was going to try to follow her to Toronto.
1. The plot was moving way too fast for a For Better or For Worse plot. After all, it took Warren a good 1 ½ years before he finally was released from his good guy prison to become a bad guy.
2. If Liz dumped Paul because she is springing all this stuff on him, it would make her look really bad, and this strip is not about making Pattersons look bad. Well, not intentionally anyway.
3. The June 2, 2003 strip where this whole plotline of Liz in Mtigwaki was foreshadowed, and pointed out to me by qnjones. It says Liz is going to fall for the wrong guy. Get it? His name is Wright and he’s the wrong guy. You see the jokes are now predicted years in advance. Paul Wright has yet to be turned into a heel. He has not been Warrenized or Ericized yet. Only then, can Liz be released from his clutches into the arms of the waiting Anthony.

The best part is that all the snark I did today about how Liz was preparing to move back to Milborough and asking her friends to move back, still works, even if Paul and Liz do not break up. The simple fact of the matter is that homesick does not work and having a summer job in Mississauga does not work as reasonable explanations for her sudden departure. We have not seen homesick since Shiimsa showed up in the strip, and even in the monthly letters it has not been mentioned since last year. In fact, the Mtigwaki strips this year have been the opposite. Elly visited the pow-wow and came to the conclusion that Mtigwaki was home. Liz got stinking drunk over New Years’ Eve and came to the conclusion that Milborough was not her home. When Paul Wright announced his transfer to Liz, she was jumping up and down with joy and saying “Amazing.” There was nothing to say that this was coming. So, you have to presume the whole thing is predicated off of April’s e-mail and the only thing she mentioned that is reasonable is Anthony Caine’s divorce. If this strip is being written well, then the divorce is the reason, but maybe Liz has not admitted that to herself yet.

I snarked all of the homesick items in the posts today, and I suppose tomorrow I will work in Mississauga somewhere now that this is official. My favourite post of the day was when aprilp_katje as April fed Shannon Lake a line about special needs boys giving her the eye. It was so irresistible to put in a glass eye joke. That’s a cheap laugh, but I enjoyed writing it. 2nd place for me would probably be my snark from the hand of Candace who accused Liz of wanting to come home to dry out from being a drunk. I didn’t see that perspective on any other FBoFW commentary, so I had a little pride thing going.

Tomorrow’s strip: Paul still lives! That’s good. I was afraid he was going to have to be dropped as a regularly posting character after this week.

Monday, May 29, 2006

LIz and Paul talk. Finally.

Today’s strip was interesting insomuch as Liz bounced back and forth between saying she was confused about leaving to saying she was definitely going to go. Paul invoked his hurt feelings about how she timed this with his impending transfer. All my ARB snark was based on this strip, so many of them laboured on an attempt to explain what was going on from their perspective. Unfortunately they were not too funny, but they were interesting to write.

In tomorrow’s strip, Liz has gone completely away from the confused part to an “I am definitely going and I want you to come with me” line. It is the same line she used on Vivian and now expresses it to Paul. We get a little Paul history about how he has only lived in one area all his life, except for courses, which are probably the Ontario Provincial Police training academy courses in Orillia. That would be a kiss of death for “I want to see the world” Liz, if she actually wanted to see the world.

But the big occasion is that Liz finally admits that she loves Paul Wright. However, for that to come out in the heat of the discussion between them, then it makes me believe she is not sincere and is just saying it because she has been cornered.

Overall I am please that Liz and Paul are finally talking, but the break-up seems inevitable this week.

Merrie and Grandpa Share Dentures

Today’s strip is not too bad, so long as you don’t think too hard about what is actually happening in For Better or For Worse. We mainly snarked hairstyles and dentures for the day. My in-laws (wife dad and step-mother) were in today, so my posts were once again early and late, surrounding their visit. They are gone tomorrow to go see the Grand Canyon. The visit went pretty well. These are my kids’ grandparents who have not come to Arizona to visit since 2001 and when they did come, they would always bring their favourite grandchildren in Texas along with them. This was the first time they have been just by themselves, ever, and what a difference it made. My kids put on a show; they were so enthusiastic and cute. The visit went very well.

Tomorrow’s strip: It doesn’t look good for Constable Paul Wright. In fact, I would lay money out that this is going to be his last week to appear in the strip. I am oddly enough feeling a loss with this. I originally wanted the good constable because a long, long time ago, schmoosie was posting as Liz and complained all the time about feeling as though she was separated from the rest of the group posting at April’s Real Blog, because there was no way for her to drive a story by herself and have anyone else with her. So, I decided to pickup Paul Wright, for no other purpose than to provide that someone for schmoosie. That worked out for awhile, but then schmoosie went to other places and regrettably did not leave on the best of terms. Since then, the good constable has been posting with aprilp_katje and then qnjones as Liz, who each brought something different to the character.

The main things I liked about Constable Paul Wright was writing him as unflaggingly faithful to Elly, particularly in face of aprilp_katje’s withering criticism of Elly when writing as April; and also writing him as madly in love in Elizabeth no matter what abuse was heaped on him. I have done so much research on the Ontario Provincial Police practices, and Ojibway legends and the Ojibway language and the tremendous societal problems that First Nations Canadians face. I am going to be sad at the end of this week to say goodbye to the good constable. I like Howard and Jeremy, but they are pretty much out of the strip. Jeremy might make an appearance if they go forward with the battle of the bands story they mentioned a few times in the monthly letters, but I doubt much will happen with that. Constable Paul Wright was my only character link with a regularly appearing storyline. I am going to miss you.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Liz Takes a Beating Part 2

Again today I had two different reads on the occurrences in the strip. The first was that Liz was incredibly immature. I would like to say that as a 25-year-old school teacher, she should be more mature, but I can remember back to my dating days, when I was in my 20s, and school teachers that I dated who were also in their 20s, and frankly, a lot of them were pretty immature when it came to personal relationships. There was the one was obsessed with marrying only men with blonde hair (I am not blonde and ultimately this woman ended up marrying a man with black hair). There was the one who was so homophopic that she spent the entire date talking about curing them, and alternatively suspecting every, even slightly effeminate man we saw, of being gay. There was the one who believed she had dated her one and only (a guy she had dated for 8 months until she finally drove him so crazy he left the state. The guy moved from Texas to Alabama.), and no other man would be acceptable, so she was determined to marry a man and have a relationship in contract only (Thank God it wasn’t me. The guy she married gave her a few kids, and then she divorced him so fast, it made his head spin.). The list goes on and on. Liz is mild in comparison to some of the lunatic women with whom I went out on dates.

The biggest problem I have with Liz right now, is I don’t believe her. She has mentioned homesickness off-and-on for awhile now, the biggest example being shortly before she adopted Shiimsa. However, the whole pow-wow sequence with Elly beat us over the head until we were silly with the idea that Liz was “home” and Elly had accepted it. Consequently, I don’t believe Liz when she says she is so homesick she has to quit her job in Mtigwaki. I don’t believe Liz when she says she thinks that Paul might follow her to Toronto. This business all started when she found out that Anthony Caine was getting divorced. In my mind, the only reason Liz wants to leave Mtigwaki, is that her primary reason for going there in the first place (i.e. to get away from Anthony and Thérèse) has now disappeared. Now it is time for her to return and make herself as accessible as possible for Anthony. Anthony is her one-and-only. No one else matters to Liz except Anthony. Warren, Paul, even Eric are inconsequential next to this man. Liz is a woman obsessed and no other man will be acceptable to her, no matter how nice they are.

My second read on today’s strip had to do with the role of Vivian. It seemed to me like she was too ready and too eager to lay a smackdown on Liz. I don’t mind that she did, considering it was well-deserved. However, there are a number of good reasons why Liz might not have signed the contract or talked to Paul. Until Liz mentions the idiotic, “Paul likes Toronto” line, then Liz had a chance to really snap back at Vivian for touching on subjects that were none of her business.

As for April’s Real Blog, this was one of those days, where Constable Paul Wright could not make a comment on what happened, so he is not reading these Blog entries, until the subject returns back to something more palatable to him, i.e. not something being discussed which is something he should not know in advance. The other characters took one of the two stands I mentioned before. As for my posting, my in-laws are in town, so I got some early morning, and afternoon nap posts. The most interesting part of the day had nothing to do with me, but rather with the_berserker who posted a long and excellent “Duncan finds his dad at Niagara Falls” story.

Tomorrow’s strip: Just bizarre. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Why would Meredith seek out great grandpa Jim’s dentures to work with clay?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Liz Takes a Beating Part 1

Today was an interesting strip. My first round through it was for the FOOBiverse’s Journal, covering the Journal entry for Cookie77 out on the farm. I fell into the usual anti-Elizabeth rant. Then as I was considering the strip more carefully, I suddenly realized that Vivian was leading Liz down the path of saying she would leave. Then it also occurred to me, of all the bosses I have ever had, in how many of their husbands or wives did I confide? The answer is none. I would never think of doing it, even if I also worked with the husband or wife, which has actually occurred before. The more I thought about it, the more it looked like Vivian was not working for Liz’s interests, but for Gary’s interests. I wonder why Liz picked Vivian for her confidant. I expect it was for convenience, since her previous middle-aged woman confident, Auntie Roo, lived with her, and being just next door, Vivian perhaps fits that bill better than Liz’ alternative Jesse Mukwa’s aunt Marge. The other and less desirable possibility is that Liz feels more comfortable with Vivian, as she is an almost white, red-headed Metis, whereas Aunt Marge is dark-skinned, possibly full-blooded Ojibway. I would hate to think Liz carried that sort of prejudice, but it is possible.

I would comment about April’s Real Blog today, but since almost nothing happened, there is no need to comment. The posts have all the earmarks of a day when aprilp_katje has been distracted by something going on in real life. Good for her. Speaking of real life, my wife’s dad and step-mom are in town this Memorial Day weekend (their first visit to Arizona since 2001), and I expect my posts to be limited to early morning or late evening.

In tomorrow’s strip, Vivian goes so far as to lead Liz to water and tells her what she has drunk, i.e. admit she is not coming back to Mtigwaki, even though Liz still does not say that. Then Vivian lays a snark on Liz’s indecisive behaviour that would make qnjones proud.

Tomorrow’s strip really makes Liz look bad. She has no comeback for Vivian, as if everything Vivian told her was true. I am amazed. Even when Michael was putting down tape in the foyer, which was extraordinarily stupid, no one ever called him on it. Now someone has actually called Liz on the stupid passive stuff she does. Vivian is not begging Liz to stay because she is such a wonderful teacher, or great person, or because she belongs in the community, or even because she is a Patterson. In fact, she is telling Liz, if you can’t make up your mind, I am going to presume you are leaving. And by the way, you are a lousy girlfriend too.

I am beginning to think that Anthony may want to stay away from Liz, if she comes back to Milborough. She’s too messed up.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Finally, We Might Get Some Answers

The character Lynn Johnston most likes to play games with is Elizabeth. She continually starts up these plots with Liz and then does not show the crucial sequence that would explain much about where the story is going. We don’t see Liz’s response to Anthony when he asked her to wait for him. We don’t see Liz’s response to Gary Crane when he asked if she would be working in Mtigwaki next year. Then some even subtler stuff like, last December, Liz told Paul to stop on the road so they could kiss. Did they kiss? We don’t know. What we do know is that we have never seen them kiss. Ever. Even during the post-Valentine’s Day loving arc, all that happened was the good Constable swung her around and danced with her in sock feet. No kissing. We could assume there might have been some kissing since she talked about it last December, but that is no guarantee. They may have just talked.

That is what makes the character of Liz somewhat maddening. She is by far the most difficult to read. Lynn Johnston is making it look a lot like she is going to dump her boyfriend and chase after Anthony Caine in her own passive fashion, but there is the little thing about Paul Wright’s last name. Before this week, I might have been able to skip over that. But after the 4Evah & Eva joke this week, I am not sure anymore. Lynn introduced Eva in November, 2005 and finally got around to that name joke in May, 2006—6 months later. If she is willing to wait that long to use a straight line, then maybe it’s more important to her to make a bad joke than it is to get Elizabeth back with Anthony. It’s hard to tell. The main thing is that today’s strip showed promise of finally getting some of those answers.

Tomorrow’s strip: Liz says she is homesick. I had wondered how Lynn would try to make Liz likeable and still get her back to Milborough after all this Mtigwaki is home stuff. Unless they retcon out the business with Paul Wright getting his transfer, this is not going to work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Band Has a Name and the Name is Stupid

Today’s snark was well-deserved. Imagine creating a character and naming that character for no other purpose than for a pun when redoing a band’s name. It has not been an uncommon practice among famous authors to name characters in such a fashion as to indicate the nature of the character. One of my favourite parts of the Book of Ruth from the Bible is that Orpah and Ruth marry Mahlon and Chilion, whose names mean “sick” and “pining”. Of course, you can tell by their names that either their parents hated them, or they are simply characters in a story, where you can tell they are not long for this world. There’s Willy Loman (Low Man) from Death of a Salesman. And one of the characters I enjoyed playing the most was Billy Bigelow (Big and Low) from Carousel. In each of these cases, the mere name of the character gave you a feel for how the author wanted you to consider them. So, what can we say about the character of Eva, we now know to be pronounced “Eh-vah”, as in forever. What does the fact that her name was created for no other reason than to name the band 4Evah and Eva, tell you about her character?

1. It tells you that Eva was created to become a member of April’s band and since she is replacing Becky, then you also get the idea she was created to become April’s new best friend.
2. Abuya, the recently given last name. I hunted through the Toronto White Pages and did in fact find one person with the last name, Abuya. In Corbeil and the surrounding area, there are no Abuyas. So I have to imagine that this name is given to Eva to connote her African ethnicity, without having to actually have Eva describe it.

And that’s all I have. She is a Becky replacement with an ethnic background. In other words, you could plug in anyone here, so long as they meet the name requirement. She could have been named “Amen Abuya” or “More Abuya” or “A Day Abuya” and met the qualifications.

After the band name snarking was done, the_berserker concluded the long-running (since last December, I think) storyline about Duncan going to trial for passing counterfeit money. qnjones began a new story arc about Gerald being fostered by Thorvald McGuire in the ways of the Viking. And qnjones as Liz popped in to say she wasn’t going to say anything, pretty much like strip Liz. I took advantage of that moment to go through the Michael monthly letters where he talked about Liz and created a post jam-packed full of “Mike on Liz” phrases, many of which are pretty funny when quoted verbatim. I popped in as Rosemary Mayes with research on Viking incest to support the foster son storyline. All the other characters I write simply commented on all those other goings-on.

Tomorrow’s strip: At long last, maybe we can get some answers to the lingering questions with Liz. I don’t know how long she can drag her feet on not coming back to Mtigwaki, but if she wants any kind of farewell, she doesn’t have any more time to make a decision. If she made a decision over the summer, then she would have to come back to say good-bye and I don’t see that happening. We have to have much Patterson back-patting before she leaves so that we can be told that she has made majour changes to them etc. That would be boring except for the whole Constable Paul Wright thing. She can’t say good-bye without giving him a good kick in the teeth. I am quite curious how Lynn is going to play this, because she has to get rid of Paul before Liz can chase after Anthony. My Constable senses are all tingling. I hope qnjones has her snarking shoes on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I am Going to Have to Beret Myself

I was so convinced that the appearance of Luis was going to be beret boy from the April 2, 2006 strip of For Better or For Worse, that I did joke after joke about people wearing berets. Little did I suspect that Luis would show up tomorrow, not looking even remotely like beret boy. So, I suppose that Gordie Durrocher and Vicki Simone can still hold the titles of the people at April’s birthday party on April 2. Also, fortunately, greytail088 showed up as Vicki Simone to liven up what was going to otherwise be a very dull day in snarking since strip April Patterson made a shocking appearance as a forgiving and kind girl. I guess that even though we saw Elly back home for Mother’s Day, what is really going on is that Elly is still up at Mike and Dee’s place taking care of Robin, and this other storyline is back in Milborough to show what is going on without Elly.

Tomorrow’s strip: Now we are moving along at a pretty fast clip. New keyboardist and new band name all in 2 days. Probably by the end of the week we will have the battle of the bands vs. Becky McGuire (Hope! Hope! Hope!)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parents Are Human Too (At Least John Patterson, Anyway)

I think today’s strip was intended to draw humour from the situation where John Patterson, who just this year lectured April unsuccessfully on internet use, and was embarrassed by her pointing out he had done the same things he did not want her to do, has now been shown to try to save face by lecturing April to not do something that she can’t do, since she doesn’t have a driver’s licence. My majour difficulty with the strip had less to do with speeding, which is a minor offence, and in the town in which I live, where the whole town is practically a speed trap, due to the fact there is so little crime, the police don’t have anything better to do and it is difficult to avoid getting a ticket at some point. I have been pulled over for (a) going over the line in the middle of the road without signaling at a time of night in which there was no other traffic (b) going 5 miles over the speed limit. Neither of these things were hardly safety items. In John Patterson’s case, he is clearly going at a much higher rate of speed since Duncan and Gerald make multiple comments about it, while they are riding with him. This is the part that bothers me. As a parent, from time to time, I am called on to drive not only my kids, but their friends (i.e. children of other parents), and I find the idea of John Patterson intentionally and excessively speeding and thus endangering their lives to be a far worse thing than if he had simply been speeding when driving himself. Contrary to Dr. Patterson’s opinion, the problem is not the speeding. The problem is the irresponsible handling of someone else’s children. This is not a really a lesson for April. However, April probably learned a lot about her dad, when she saw how defensive he got over the matter. So, John Patterson has tried to be a good dad to April, 2 times this year and he has failed both times. Tomorrow's strip finally recognizes that safety was the issue, not speeding.

In the meantime, it’s Victoria Day. Most of my characters beat up on John a bit, and then most of my snark today shifted onto what would the people in Milborough, suburb of Toronto, be doing on this day? We don’t have Victoria Day in the States, and as near as I can tell Toronto has a fireworks display every night of the weekend alternating through the north, east, west, and south parts of the city. Constable Paul Wright caused me to research Ontario fireworks laws.

qnjones finally unleashed her hysterical “Thora has a hysterical pregnancy” storyline today, which caused me to go back into Howard the future mother/father mode. I enjoyed researching about sperm counts and the like, and I found it amusing that Howard would have already had his fertility tested in preparation for an event that won’t occur for another 3 years.

Tomorrow’s strip: The keyboardist Luis (birthday beret guy I expect) arrives at last, so I hope this means an end to this particularly awful story arc, but there is the possibility that the next day’s strip will have John talking to Elly about his guilt. Follow the band! Follow the band!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Nice Day for Pets

Today’s strip was actually a fairly pleasant strip. Despite its usual artistic difficulties in drawing realistic rabbits or proportions that made sense, the strip did have certain energy to it and the pictures of the dogs seemed to show doggy kinds of things with a lot of enthusiasm. It wasn’t a particularly funny strip, and could have actually done without its punch line and would have been better, but overall it was not too bad. It gave my character of Constable Paul Wright, finally an opportunity to snark on the Shiimsa harness bit in the Pet’s Letter from April, 2006. Howard got to talk about the dog characters qnjones had created for her Becky McGuire character. Most of the rest of the characters rhapsodized on April’s French braid. As of late, the Sunday strips have been leading the dailies in character development. For example, April’s birthday Sunday strip showed Eva with Duncan as a couple, whereas the daily strip is still struggling with that plotline. So I suspect that April may show up with a French braid as a regular feature in a little while. If Merrie is touting the ponytail look, then April will need to change to something else, in order to tell them apart on the days when Merrie is drawn bigger and April is drawn smaller.

As for other side plots, I have tired of the Howard burlesque show plot, having carried it for a long time now. So I came up with the idea of the opera “The Dentist and the Teenagers” as a takeoff on the plot that is clearly going to be carried through this next week, as we get to see Elly’s reaction to John’s speeding, and then Edgar, Dixie, Butterscotch, Grandpa Jim, and Iris all react too, in order to complete the week. I predict a weekending strip with John holding some animal and saying, “Why is driving so complicated?”

I got an intriguing post from susannamoodie posting as Zandra Larson suggesting I look at child pornography laws, and that led to another research project. There are quite a few websites that berate the Canadian legal system for taking it easy on child pornographers and I was able to find the part of the actual Canadian law that would apply to the dentist opera, which I regurgitated in a post. I don’t know if susannamoodie was trying to give me an indirect warning not to make the material too explicit. Nevertheless, I had no intention of going to those kinds of levels. Mainly I was trying to find lovey-dovey words that rhymed with words for teeth, although “bicuspid” and “love-bed” may have been pushing acceptable levels. In the future I will try to keep the love part even cleaner, if I quote any more parts from the opera lyrics.

Oddly enough, today I got the biggest reaction from the Creative Arts Class Forum, as every time I seemed to write something as Mae Thomas, other posters there were pretty active in writing something back. That was unusual, because normally when I write something as Mae, it sits for days and days before there is a reaction. Maybe it’s the new “in” place to write.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Victoria Day weekend

I wasn’t sure if we would get any Victoria Day celebration stuff in For Better or For Worse outside of the website, which was delightfully ambiguous with its “Enjoy Your Holiday” picture of Edgar sleeping. I guess Lynn figures that, given quite a bit of her audience are from the States, she doesn’t want to confuse us with Canadian holidays, except where it matches the States’. Honestly, I don’t know why she does that. After all, if she has any audience overseas, they won’t care if she does something with Victoria Day or not. And if she did do something, it would make the strip seem even more Canadian. But it’s hard to say. This isn’t a gag-a-day strip, where such things are easy to fit in. As a storyline strip, she has to ignore some things. The fact she also ignored Iris’ birthday, after doing a week-long series on Jim’s birthday, tells you exactly where Iris stands. She stands right there with Queen Victoria.

Tomorrow’s strip shows Edgar and Dixie enjoying their holiday by tearing up the yard and getting a bath. Today’s strip however, was Dr. John Patterson angst over being caught for speeding. If he hadn’t been caught, people wouldn’t be passing him with hand-gestures and saying, “Hoot.” I don’t think John would have any regret over speeding, if he hadn’t been caught, given the way he is thinking about it.

It was a busy day today at the house. The Mrs. had 2 home shows, and the kids had music lessons, and then we went to see Over the Hedge at the theatre. Home shows for Homemade Gourmet, the product line my wife sells, means she is on the computer most of the day after the show processing orders and the like. So I tried to sneak in a few messages here and there, but it was difficult to get any in. This was not too disturbing for me, because most of my characters had already commented on Dr. John Patterson’s arrest yesterday. However, weekends are the only time now where I can get any kind of old-style April’s Real Blog character interaction, so I hate it when I miss it. Tomorrow is looking similarly busy, but we will see.

What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Realize You’re Old

The nature of the mid-life crisis is that someone suddenly realizes that they are old, and tries to act young. I had 2 best friends in my younger days and their fathers both reacted to mid-life crises in different ways. Number #1 was they both got divorced. One dad starting riding a motorcycle and wearing black leather jackets. He was a college English professor with a grey beard and the effect was some startling. The other dad made a play for my friend’s girlfriend and much to my astonishment was successful and he married her. My friend sometimes speaks with pride at the accomplishments of his step-mom and I still find it freaky, even though my friend is well past the point of thinking such things. I guess he’s just happy his dad is married to someone he likes as a person. I don’t know.

What we see with John Patterson today is pretty clear evidence of his ongoing midlife crisis. John ogles women, he ogles his daughter, he has seen “dangerous information” on the internet, he likes to drive cool cars (for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that Crevasse station wagon actually is a cool car), and now he wants to pal around with his daughter’s boyfriend and her band mate, Duncan. His monthly letters have gone on incessantly about his desire to be considered cool and not old. John is 57 years old this year, and he is a grandfather twice over, so you would think he is beyond all that. He clearly is not. If anything, he is getting worse. This year in the letters, he has been moaning and groaning about how he lost his best friend, April. So, this thing with Gerald and Duncan may be part of his effort to get back into April’s life, indirectly through her boyfriend. So, he gets a little overzealous and speeds to show off to these boys. It’s perfectly understandable considering John appears to be one of those men that never actually gets out of his midlife crisis. It seems like a fairly realistic thing to me, since as I stated before, I have known men like this. But as for character building, what is does is show that John Patterson has an obsession with youth that is keeping him away from making friends his own age and also from being considered a reliable person. These ideas are bolstered by John paying so much attention to Gordon Mayes and Anthony Caine, who are also persons who were friends of his children and not friends of his own.

I had been making fun of John for his obsession with his children’s friends, but this week really put things in perspective. His obsession is dangerously out of control. Now, whether or not Elly will address his problem with anything other than lecture or unhinging her mouth for more full-throated screaming or throwing things at John is yet to be seen, if in fact it is going to be seen. We have gotten indications that the strip ends next year with John’s retirement and move to that little shack with the big yard down the road from where he lives now, so maybe he will grow up. Let’s hope that Lynn Johnston does something with it and doesn’t gloss over it with a series of bad puns.

On April’s Real Blog today, it was just me and the_berserker posting as Duncan today. Who would have thought a day without aprilp_katje? I think it must be a first. the_berserker posting as Duncan requested a character reference from Michael Patterson and my initial thought was to just have Michael make the character reference about himself. But then I thought, we have done that so many time with egotistical Mike. So, I took a different turn and decided to describe the full and rich life of Duncan via the monthly letters. Duncan in the letters is a much better friend to April than Duncan of the strip. I was surprised at how often the letters described something that Duncan did for April. I was also surprised at how often Duncan saved April from doing something stupid, described in April’s own monthly letters. So, I wrote up this whole long thing about Duncan, and the humour was derived from how often April got slammed. It was fun to focus on just one character like that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Bad and the Ugly

In today’s strip, at least the focus seems to be moving off Eva and it appears from tomorrow’s strip, the whole point of this story arc is for John Patterson to appear cool because of his car purchase. Saturday’s strip has to be a police ticket for speeding joke, possibly related to the officer making some comment about how cool John’s car is, or maybe the reappearance of Brad Luggsworth, who has not been around in years. If it’s Brad, then maybe he and Dr. Patterson can have a nice chat about how his wife left him just in time to vie for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, while Duncan and Gerald think similar thoughts, except without the wife part.

The only thing that could be done with Eva was to have some sort of explanation as to why she would be narrating what the boys were doing. the_berserker as Duncan noticed the narration, qnjones as Becky and Gerald added to it, and I had Jeremy Jones explain it as a manifestation of Eva’s text on the Who’s Who part of the For Better or For Worse website, which had to mention Duncan being interested in Eva. All of this was topped by qnjones ' masterful “Eva talks to Gerald” post where she laid out the many views of Eva point by point with explanations that are far better than, “The Lynnions don’t know what to do with her.” She looks black. She looks white. She looks sexy. She looks frumpy. She loves to exude psychopath chic. She can’t speak without using analogies.

Constable Paul Wright, Michael Patterson and Howard K. all had their takes on Dr. John Patterson taking the boys to show off the car, which all amounted to, “This doesn’t seem right.” I would like to say in tomorrow’s strip it gets better (and it does for Eva), but for Dr. Patterson it gets much worse. The strip presents a Dr. Patterson, who has intentionally and irresponsibly been speeding for no other purpose than to impress the boys. It’s hard to believe the same guy who was afraid of “dangerous information“ with April, is now breaking the law with Gerald and Duncan. It’s either a sexual double-standard or the people who wrote this story don’t seem to remember that Dr. Patterson is the same idiot who drives trash out to the dump and complains about the things people threw away. For him to blatantly break the law seems far, far out of his character.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Guns and Cells

Today continued the crazy Eva analogy series. Bad for poor Eva, who will have a difficult time being taken seriously as a character after this week. The plus side is that Eva has now made so many appearances; she has finally been given a last name of Abuya by the For Better or For Worse website. This indicates that her father or her father’s family probably immigrated to Canada from Kenya or Nigeria, since Abuya is a female name originating in Kenya or Nigeria, because the capital city has that name. As for the source of Eva’s lily white hair, I don’t know unless Lynn Johnston saw the X-Men movies and mistakenly thought Storm’s hair looked cool. In any case, Eva’s inability to complete an analogy without going on some kind of tangent continued today, and for those of us who were reading something into it, it looks like Eva has a problem with men.

I would like to say that tomorrow’s strip improves on this, but sadly it does not. The strip continues the cowboy analogy, while taunting men and their desire to show off cars. It is quite odd to see Gerald and Duncan bonding with Dr. Patterson like this. The last time they were seen together was during the Battle of the Bands sequence when Dr. Patterson poo-pooed the 4-Evah girls baring the midriffs. I have to feel sorry for Dr. Patterson, that he doesn’t have any friends his age and he feels the need to show off his new car to people that are not his own age or that he even really knows.

As for today on April’s Real Blog, Constable Paul Wright focused on gun law, as you would expect anytime you hear some teenager talking about guns. The rest of the April’s Real Blog posters concentrated on the “Eva is crazy” theme and had her react to men with cell phones. qnjones really snarked the strip hard with her Gerald and Becky posts on the subject.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Eva Does Yet Another Cowboy Analogy

I see that tomorrow Eva is going to riff on guns=cell phones. So, I guess my fear that the entire week is going to be taken up by Eva the Analogist is coming to pass. Mercy, Lynn, Mercy. I will admit there are lower forms of humour than puns, if you will quit demonstrating to us what those lower forms are.

On the other hand, I enjoyed riffing on Eva’s cowboy lines all day long and I can see some Eva hate on guys with cell phones spicing up tomorrow’s posts. Constable Paul Wright tried a little righteous indignation on the cowboy reference and qnjones as Gerald correctly picked up on my hint that the good constable is fraught with all the worst Hollywood Indian stereotypes. qnjones also riffed on Eva’s strap-on line from yesterday and set up Howard to give Eva a lecture on strap-ons that aprilp_katje carried through nicely.

I am not certain what Lynn has in mind with this sequence of strips involving Eva. I have seen enough strips to know now to include the word “man” in her conversation. Is Lynn trying to make Eva appear funny, or just with a healthy dose of man hatred, that refers way back to the Elly monthly letter that showed Eva’s fear of commitment to Duncan. I am not sure what it is, but the more Eva talks, the more I don’t like her.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Eva Sacrificed For Horse Joke

We are apparently beginning a story arc where Eva is going to compare boys to cowboys, which I sincerely hope will stop after Tuesday, but I fear will continue for the whole week. The natural choice was to apply the horse metaphor to other situations to see how far it could be taken. In the meantime, the good constable struggled to have anything to say about today’s strip. Jeremy had an easier time with the car part of it. Mike Patterson and Howard went on their own separate tangents with aprilp_katje’s mention about not having control over what she writes.

the_berserker is in the middle of her long plotline involving Duncan and his legal issues that date back to holiday travel arrangements for Barbados. the_berserker is a master at these stories that go for extraordinary periods of time. I am far too impatient to be able to do that kind of stuff. the_berserker dropped a post mentioning the possibility of a breakup with susannamoodie’s Zandra Larson in favour of Eva, and I went with that, but left the window open for the obvious reconciliation, which susannamoodie went for. I don’t know where things are going to go this week wrt Eva and Duncan and the band. They have yet to introduce the keyboardist, or the new name of the band or the possibility of participating in a battle of the bands. That may all be coming, but so far, we are 2 strips into what appears to be what I can only call “nonsense strips,” more appropriate for some other comic strip.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Elly is the Best Grandma Ever, but She Sucks as a Mom

This weekend my boy went from Cub Scout to Boy Scout and I began to see very clearly why it is that many boys don’t do Boy Scouts. It is far more time-intensive than I would have guessed, even for a boy who just joined yesterday evening. The occasion marks a transition between essentially elementary school and junior high school or more specifically going into puberty. It means that my boy is likely to start being interesting in girls, (or boys, if he falls into that 10% of the male population).

While I was dealing with that and Mother’s Day, Elly was dealing with motherhood in her own way, which was to ignore her daughter and go straight for the grandchildren. I have seen this before, in fact in my wife’s family. My wife’s mother left her children in the hands of my wife’s father while she led a life of youthful irresponsibility. In her old age however, she realized she made a mistake, reconciled with my wife, and is now my kids’ favourite grandparent. Perhaps Elly is the same way. She realizes she has been a rotten parent. She and John marvel when Michael does the simplest and most basic of things, like rake leaves or carry their luggage, when during their youth, Elly spent quite a few of her waking moments screaming at her children at the top of her lungs. My guess is that we will never, ever see Elly screaming at the top of her lungs at Merrie and Robin, as Lynn Johnston tries to redeem Elly in our eyes by making her a better grandmom than she was a mom. Unfortunately, Lynn has no idea how to do this. In today’s strip, Elly obsesses over getting Merrie’s coat off and then obsesses over the Mother’s Day card, while ignoring the grandchildren's bizarre behaviour.

This is an area over which it is extremely difficult for the characters I do to snark. I have done Michael Patterson several times now, even though he is officially assigned to the long-absent phatsmacky and he has provided the best opportunities. These kinds of strips are pretty much limited to Patterson family members for snarking. The rest of the characters can simply feel sympathy for poor ignored April.

Tomorrow’s strip: The focus shifts to April and Eva, in Eva’s first appearance as April’s new best friend. School is almost out, and Eva has finally gotten past her introductory appearances to a position as casual friendship, where April and Eva can talk about boys with very odd horse analogies. Lynn certainly could have moved this character along faster. I had been playing with Eva and Jeremy as a potential romance until Eva and Duncan are definitely established in the strip as a couple, but given tomorrow’s strip, that moment may be this week. So, I am going to play it very cautiously.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Those Evil Kelpfroths

Today was the strip for which we got the sneak preview, so aprilp_katje leveraged off stuff we had done as a precognition of the strip for her Blog entry. What mainly happened for me is that I did a lot of research on Ontario tenant law and also I found a number of websites talking about tenant law abuses and anti-smoking websites talking about victories that had been made in the states to prosecute people who were smoking in their own apartments where the smell leaked out. susannamoodie pointed me to an Act which will reform many of the problems listed in the websites talking about tenant law abuses and I was actually impressed with the Ontario government when I read it. Both Howard and the good constable expounded at length on these things, with the good constable having to work very hard to support Elly’s opinion that the Kelpfroths should be evicted having never met them or talked to them or for that matter, smelled them or experienced the banging on the floor personally.

The anti-smoking websites were the most interesting of the stuff I researched because, when it comes to smoking, there was a definite sense of a person’s home is no longer their castle, if anything leaks out of the castle that resembles cigarette smoke. If taken to its logical extreme, if someone decides noise pollution is harmful (which is a big deal where I work with OSHA safety standards for noise levels), then people with loud sound systems or loud children could be evicted. I found it quite ironic considering that this is one of the complaints of the Kelpfroths against the Pattersons.

Other than that, it was a pretty dead day. aprilp_katje popped up and made a joke about Patterson-coloured glasses, which my characters riffed on for a bit and I had Jeremy and Eva go on an actual date, hoping that they would see Duncan and Zandra at the movies since I picked the latest Daniel Clowes film Art School Confidential. But alas, Duncan is watching the hockey playoffs.

Tomorrow’s strip: I have a cub scout campout and preparation for it. So, I will probably not post much. I was sure we were headed towards Elly figuring out the source of Robin’s illness being the Kelpfroths after all that lead-in this week, but nada. We have poor sad Meredith deperately trying to convince her grandmother to spend time with her.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Elly to the Rescue

Ever since the May 12 strip was accidentally leaked, I wondered how Lynn was going to lead into it. Oddly enough, we do not see a desperate Mike or Deanna begging Elly to come and help out with Robin. She’s just there and recognized first by Lovey. Who knows if she was invited, or used her special grandma senses to know she should come. She’s just there. I looked over the archive strips and I think this is first time Elly and Lovey have met. Considering all the mother substitutes the Patterson children have had over the years, it has occurred to me now that Elly has met precious few of them. It’s as if the kids are in their own world which Elly never breaches. In fact, the last time Elly (in the strip) went to Mike and Dee’s place was shortly after Robin was born 1 year and 7 months ago. This just reinforces this element of separation.

Lovey’s mention of home remedies was so odd, given Deanna’s occupation. The lack of anyone mentioning a doctor is conspicuous. Over on the FOOBiverse’s Journal, there seemed to be a clearly divided line between those who thought Mike and Dee were incompetent parents for allowing Lovey to be so involved with Robin and those who believed they were being smart for bringing in someone who knew what they were doing. Of course, given the home remedies, Lovey’s competence could be questionable. I suppose this is one reason why Elly could be there, but more likely, she is there to start up the story impetus towards getting Mike and Dee into the family estate in Milborough.

My characters snarked up Elly’s visit and Lovey’s remedies as well they could, particularly the one about intoxicating the parents. Then it was sort of dead in the water again until qnjones popped up to drive a story arc with 5-Evah playing with her at the prom. I asked the_berserker about Canadian school proms some time ago, and she mentioned that if they occurred, they only occurred at the end of the year, like the grade 8 grad dance. The style of having several school dances during the course of the year was not practiced in Canada, for some reason. In any case, I as Jeremy Jones am playing it as an end-of-the year prom, since it is actually pretty close to the end of the year, and if it occurs before the actual end of the school year in Toronto, who cares?

Tomorrow’s strip: Elly compliments Lovey. Lovey takes the conversation into Kelpfroth bashing. They only have Saturday left to draw the smoking cigar conclusions, so my guess is that this story will drag into next week. Worst case scenario is that it stops on Saturday with Elly sniffing smoke and then nothing is addressed for another 3 months or so. I see Howard getting another call from his aunt Winnie in April’s Real Blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New Artist?

I think the For Better or For Worse people must be trying out a new artist. Honestly, if I did not know that today’s strip was about Mike and Dee, I would not have recognized them. The most basic essentials of what makes their characters look like they are, like big lips for Deanna, were gone and no where to be seen. Tomorrow’s strip is just as disjointed artwise. I don’t know what is going on up in Corbeil with the art. Even when the artist was turning April into werewolf, or shrinking her to baby size, it wasn’t this off from the standard character appearance.

The strip dialogue itself was not too bad, but virtually unsnarkable from most of my characters. I looked up “Ojibway childhood diseases” and was frankly astounded at the poor conditions their children are in. They get the otitis media, and this leads to delayed learning, delayed speech, the inability to get a decent job, and whole series of mental illnesses if not treated. The 23% the constable quotes is taken from an actual study done on the problem. Then when qnjones as Liz mentioned in a humourous way, job choices for women, I searched on “Ojibway women jobs” and found the statistics on average salaries and a whole host of problems on Ojibway women finding any kind of job. The employment rate was a frighteningly low 46% for Ojibway women, with a very high suicide rate, because they take it on themselves to try to fix the problems that they as a people have. It was very depressing to read and I couldn’t put too much of that in Constable Paul Wright’s stuff without it losing any inkling of being funny. But I realized that among his people, the good constable’s salary is very nice indeed.

Fortunately, qnjones drove more storyline with Gerald insisting on 4 children and that very complex analysis of the For Better or For Worse universe, via the hysterically funny Johnston Institute pamphlets. My characters were able to ride off that for the rest of the day. The only side note was doing some Eva snark on the parts of the April monthly letter I had not previously touched, i.e. the description of Eva’s musical abilities and her long list of school work she has to do. I revisited John Patterson’s anti-Becky, pro-fun monthly letter from last fall, since it was an obvious connection to the description that Eva only sings for the fun of it. I did not realize how many times John said the word “fun” in that letter until I started writing it down line for line.

Tomorrow’s strip: Elly has arrived and we don’t see who invited her. But Lovey stops by to lead into yet more complaining about the Kelpfroths, which we already know will continue into Friday. Will Elly draw the second hand smoking conclusion virtually every FBoFW message board thinks will be the source of Robin’s problems? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Meanie Beanie

Today’s strip showed Michael Patterson in a feeble attempt to capitalize on the good will he earned from dealing with Robin to try to get Deanna to give out the goods. My initial thought was that it was pretty much true to life, that boys will do whatever they think will work to get those goods. On the other hand, it also demonstrated how grossly incompetent Michael is at dealing with Deanna as a husband.

Years ago I had the good fortune to take a course in university called Sex and Gender Roles in our Society, which has informed most of my thinking about the sexes. The professor produced charts of the level of testosterone in women’s and men’s bodies over a lifetime and spoke about studies where women had taken testosterone to see how it affected them. Aside from the usual effects of growing body hair and causing voices to get lower, it also had the effect of causing the women in the study to experience the male sex drive first hand. One of the findings of the study was that the women who participated felt very uncomfortable, because they thought about sex all the time and they were unable to control it. Then we looked at the chart on the level of testosterone in men’s bodies vs. women’s bodies and I forget the exact ratio, but let’s just say men had a whole lot more of it. The professor then went on to point out that this single difference drove many of the differences between the genders and how they reacted to each other and to things in general.

So, yes, Michael Patterson has no idea when an appropriate time is to ask for intimate relations, but on the other hand, the man is probably desperate. He kissed Deanna just before he went to pick up his parents from the airport back in March, but all the other bedroom strips with Mike and Deanna show them talking or Mike getting rejected by a smirking Deanna. Speaking as a married man, who’s been married for almost 14 years now, I felt for Mike in this strip. He wants something a lot, and he has no idea how to get it.

Character-wise, Blogger kicked my butt this morning and it took me forever to get my character’s top-of-the-morning snark out. The topic today seemed to be bearing children and most of the characters riffed on that. I especially enjoyed pulling in Rosemary Mayes as a threat to April over Gerald. “Meanie Beanie”, the phrase Rosemary used, is a pet phrase that my sister’s first husband used with her, when he was perturbed with her but not angry. When aprilp_katje's April resorted to name-calling on little Rosemary, I thought it was fun to unleash that name. In reality, these days, 1st graders know a lot worse words. My daughter is in second grade and she has picked up a lot I would rather her not to have known by this age. Popular culture is not as tame as it was when I was growing up.

Jeremy Jones is playing with an Eva study / romance thing. I don’t know if aprilp_katje who posts as Eva is game for such a thing, but I figure it’s short term at best. Strip Eva is very likely to be permanently linked with Duncan by June. But since ARB Duncan is currently involved with susannamoodie’s excellent Zandra Larson character, ARB Eva and Jeremy could enjoy each other’s company for the next month or so, without messing anything up in the continuity.

I have been enjoying posting as Michael Patterson for this story arc, and I have adapted aprilp_katje’s method of posting as him, where he never mentions his children by name. My favourite posts to do today were when Michael drew parallels between him and April, and then later mentioned that April had not yet entered puberty. To me, it seemed like perfect self-oriented Michael for him to be unaware that April was already well past puberty.

Tomorrow’s strip: Who are these people and what did they do with Deanna and Mike? At least we have a clear lead-in to Elly’s appearance and the reason for it. Not only that but the day care reason for Robin getting sick is eliminated. It could mean Robin is just a sickly boy, or he has some kind of life-threatening disease. But you know it really means the Kelpfroths’ smoke has been making him sick and the best thing for him is to move to Milborough. If that ends up being the case, then you know the desperate measures the Lynnions are going to in order to paint the Kelpfroths as evil, since the fans are resisting that characterization tooth and nail. I guess the alternative to moving to Milborough is for the Kelpfroths to finally be evicted for child endangerment or some such nonsense as that.

Ears and Breasts

Little Robin has an earache. It is not yet been revealed the source of his earache, and while I was researching home treatments for earaches I did find one website that said cigarette or cigar smoke does in fact irritate ears. Tomorrow’s strip mentioned the Kelpfroths even though today’s strip did not. I suspect that the way this is going to work is:

1. Mike and Dee are exhausted from dealing with Robin and they call up Elly for help.
2. Elly arrives and speaks with Lovey about the Kelpfroths
3. Somehow they are going to come to the conclusion that the Kelpfroth’s smoking is the source of Robin’s problems
4. This will set Elly into motion to move into the retirement home, so their house is freed up for Mike and Dee to move in, all for Robin’s health.
5. As a part of the move, Mike stops working at Portrait magazine, since that would tie him too tightly to Toronto.

Lynn moves plotlines at a glacial pace. She had Elly talk about retiring for a solid 3 years before actually doing it. She is holding off on showing Liz moving back to Milborough until the last possible minute. The reuniting and renaming of 4-Evah and the introduction of its full compliment of members will probably not occur until the school year is almost over. So, even though this strip sequence is likely to show Elly thinking, “Mike and Dee should move,” it will be months before anyone actually does anything about it.

The treatment I had Constable Paul Wright list for earache, a tea made from ëmuckigwatigí (literally swamp tree) or tamarack tree is accurate. The Ojibway use the bark of the Tamarack tree for a whole host of things.

I had Jeremy Jones introduce the idea that Becky’s boobs were put into a website and this ended up with Jeremy saying “great” to everything. I was going for an imitation of an old radio comedy routine called, “George and Martha” in which the male and female voices tell an entire love story using nothing but different inflections of their partner’s name. The entire script is nothing but “George: Martha” and “Martha: George.” I couldn’t do inflections, but I tried to rig it so that Jeremy could say “great” and he would still participate in the conversation.

I had Mike Patterson riff a little on bowl haircuts, since all the Patterson kids at one point or another had bowl haircuts. If the strip ran out long enough, we could see Merrie get her bowl haircut, I am sure.

I know aprilp_katje breast-fed/feeds her baby, so it was interesting to see April become a breast-feeding proponent in the face of Becky’s rejection of the matter to Howard. I had played up Howard as wanting children for awhile, so this Becky – Howard talking about kids thing has been very interesting to bring out Howard’s parental side. My wife did not have good boobs for breast-feeding (sunken nipples) and breast-feeding was a real struggle for us. Ultimately my wife ended up using a breast pump, because with sunken nipples it requires the baby to suck the nipple out before it can feed, and neither of my kids had the wherewithal to do that, despite the motivation of hunger and many, many attempts under the supervision of lactation experts. So when Howard speaks of Becky having good nipples and areolae, there is an element of personal truth to it.

Lastly, I can tell qnjones is chaffing underneath the weight of the Valhalla supper club. Howard’s post about not having any time when you are performer is quite correct. I know this from my own personal experience in operas and in choruses and I would expect it is even worse if you are a pop star performer on tour. I can’t imagine being a Broadway performer, having to do a show every single day and then 2 a day on weekends. That would wear me out.

Tomorrow’ strip: Robin goes to sleep. Mike gets aroused. It looks pretty difficult to snark.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Children and Stickers

I was handed a child last night. Cookie77 handed me her baby, The Foobiverse's Journal to take over for about a month, while she is unable to do Journal Entries regularly. I am trying not to be freaked out. It is different from doing this Blog, which almost no one reads, except for the always marvelous aprilp_katje and qnjones. I have this fear, I am going to somehow screw up The Foobiverse’s Journal, which is read by a lot of people, so there will be no one left when cookie77 comes back. I have this sense of paranoia about such things, probably dating back to when elfie accused me of destroying April’s Real Blog with my Howard character posts months ago. It’s scary how the comments of one person can haunt you, when others say so many nice things about you. In the personal e-mail traffic between and cookie77, she gave me some terrific compliments about why she thought my style of writing was well-suited to temporarily replace her. It was very ego-building kind of stuff, but I am still little worried. But, as my uncle Foobiwan says, “Listen to the Snark, Howard. Let the Snark guide you.” I’m sure it will be fine.

As for today on April’s Real Blog, we had children and stickers and the April’s Real Blog posters really ran with that theme. I popped out what few posts I could do on the subject and then it was an afternoon of cub scouting as my boy learned how to make a bridge with wood and rope and the family went to a new restaurant that opened near us this weekend.

Tomorrow’s strip: Robin’s earache has finally appeared. I predict we are going to see Mike and Dee call upon the magnificent Elly to come save their bacon, since Meredith proved to be too incompetent to handle the job. They just don’t make 3-year-olds like they used to.

Engagement Party

I could not believe the number of guests. My brain reeled at the idea of giving each and everyone of those characters something to do or say. My initial thought was, well I wonder what aprilp_katje is going to do with this? Or I wonder what aprilp_katje had in mind with all these ex-boyfriends? Or I wonder if qnjones is going to be back from her trip in time to show for this? Then somewhere toward the afternoon, while I was waiting for my kids to finish their music lessons at the local music store, the thought occurred in my head about axe-throwing. And then it also occurred to me that the ladies could do it too. Then it occurred to me that if every single, dadgum one of the guest list threw an axe, then I could put in some comment for each and every character. So, that’s the way it was going in order to accommodate all those characters.

Then Blogger decided to fight me tooth and nail just to open up the comment window. While I was trying again and again to open it, I was writing up all the comments I planned to put in there, if it would only let me. So, once the axe-throwing began, we went through it pretty quickly, because once I was in the Blogger window I had to take advantage of my access while I was allowed to do it. It kept on crapping out on me in the middle of trying to post and then I would have to go through the whole long exercise of trying to open the window again.

As far as the characters go, the 3 bad teenagers were a mystery to me. I don’t remember them showing up before then, so I tried to play off their names a little to give them their characters. For Zatasha LaBuque, I presumed she was a goth Z-girl. For Morton DiNapoli, I was briefly tempted to go with the brutal rape thing, but I just couldn’t make it work and not be way too dark. So, I opted for a crazy kid with a thing for throwing knives. Conradia Harbinger made me think of harbinger of doom, so that’s where that went.

As for the strip snark, the good constable was final able to post again, since Lynn chickened out and did not mention that Liz plans to move from Mtigwaki. I took a quick internet search on porcupine quill plucking and found that every single website that mentioned plucking technique, said using pliers was a big no-no because it cracks and breaks the quills. It was interesting to me that Lynn would write Liz saying that unless it was some kind of nod to the 1st nations folks that Liz is incompetent at porcupine quill plucking.

My favourite post of the whole day from me however was Michael talking about determiners. I remember years ago seeing a very funny movie called Murder by Death which had the late, great Truman Capote in a pivotal role as the eccentric millionaire who ends up murdered in his home with some of the world’s greatest detectives, including Peter Sellers playing a version of Charlie Chan. In the movie, prior to his murder, Truman takes Charlie to task for never using determiners. I noticed Liz was using abbreviated, determiner-less text in the strip today, and I ripped off Murder by Death and had Michael do the same thing.

Tomorrow’s strip: Stickers. I suppose Howard is going to have a lot of conversations with his aunt Winnie Kelpfroth this week and April is probably going to talk to Deanna a lot. Maybe ellcee will help out. My kids’ grandmothers love sticker books, however usually the big deal is for the stickers to be placed somewhere else in the book. Merrie is either more creative in her choices or she is trying to do a Family Circus imitation where instead of leaving little dotted lines, she leaves stickers to indicate where she has been.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Change in Philosophy

This week in April’s Real Blog, I realized I needed a change in philosophy. When I first started doing this thing, back last August, I decided to drop in a line as Howard to see what the reaction would be, and there was an immediate reaction from the Blog posters. I remember the sense of excitement, because it was the first time I had ever tried posting to a Blog before. I was surprised that my comment would appear with the correct name I had written almost instantaneously and other people would see it and write something back to me. Initially I played Howard as ignorant and used him to snark For Better or For Worse by saying, “I saw this strange thing. Can someone tell me what it means?” And within a matter of minutes someone else would explain it.

aprilp_katje went to work this week, and I can tell when she gets home from her job and not seeing her husband and child all day, she wants to spend time with them and not necessarily writing long fan fiction stories about a comic strip. It is pretty much what I expected would happen when she announced she had taken a job. I have kids and I work, so I completely understand why things have happened the way they happened.

What it means for me is that there is now no longer anyone to react to what I write until late in the day. So, a change in philosophy is in order. April’s Real Blog, will for me, turn into something that looks more like a regular Blog, than a forum for discussion or a place where little snarky fanfics are written. In this fashion, I can write a reaction to the Blog entry as a character, whose reaction is related solely to the Blog entry, and I don’t have to worry about trying to maintain a real-time accurate story.

Tomorrow’s strip: Lynn does it to us again. She leads right up to the major decision point in Liz’s life and then doesn’t show it to us. I think the intent was to build suspense as whether or not Liz was going to stay or leave Mtigwaki, just like we have been left hanging about what really happened between Liz and Anthony last summer, when he asked Liz to wait for him. This is one area in which the monthly letters do the strip a disservice, because we already know Liz is going to Markham to teach. So, the only suspense is how Liz is going to break the news to Constable Paul Wright.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Goodbye Dirne

I was curious as to whether there would be any outcry to preserve the made up character of Dirne Aufkleber, since I introduced the idea last week that she and Jeremy would no longer be dating. There wasn’t any, so I did not have any guilty feelings about doing away with her today. Dirne suddenly developed the other name of Eliza, intentionally similar to Elizabeth and we find out that she used to date a guy named Tony, short for Anthony. I did this whole thing about the ambiguity of Liz’s motivations for how she deals with Anthony, by using Dirne / Elizabeth. Jeremy Jones plays the part of Constable Paul Wright and Jeremy’s future sis plays the part of Thérèse Caine. I hope it was obvious, since I played it so broadly, I would be disappointed if the people who read April’s Real Blog (which I suppose these days are just aprilp_katje and me) missed it. Dirne plays innocent, as Liz does, when we know she is not innocent in her dealings with Anthony or Jeremy. I thought the analogy was a good way for Dirne to go out, particularly with her insistence that Jeremy gets rid of his future sister, in a similar fashion that Thérèse Caine has been conveniently completely obliterated from Anthony Caine’s life, so Liz will never have to deal with her. I have been doing Dirne for over a month now, which is surprising to me considering I just planned her as a one-note joke character. But aprilp_katje and graytail088 and susannamoodie reacted so nicely to her, I kept her around and to pretty good effect, I think.

The other main storyline had to do with snarking John’s monster-sized monthly letter. I pulled it into Word and it came out as 5 pages long. Ironically, my “Howard goes to the dentist” post also ran about the same length. I have now officially snarked all the May monthly letters and this was the one I dreaded the most, because there was so much unfunny stuff in it. However, I think it turned out well considering the source material.

Tomorrow’s strip: Gary Crane introduces the idea that Susan Dokis would like to replace Liz. This makes it easy for Liz to depart Mtigwaki, but unfortunately it is yet another strip to which Constable Paul Wright cannot make a comment in April’s Real Blog. I hope that Liz addresses the issue with the good constable by week’s end. We know the strip next week moves to Lovey and Elly by May 12, possibly addressing the reason why they are together with Robin without Mike and Dee being there. If Robin is a sick boy, he can’t go to day care, so Elly comes up to stay with Robin until he is well. As I recollect the May 12 strip, Robin seemed to be healthy, so I am not too worried he is at death’s door. I am curious as to whether or not the Kelpfroths will receive the blame for Robin’s earaches. I have laid the groundwork for it, in the event that they are. In any case, I hope that Liz talks to Paul by the end of the week, because I don’t want to have to wait weeks and weeks for that conversation after Elly finally finishes her long and boring talk with Lovey.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Working the Letters Part II

Since today’s strip mentioned Liz leaving Mtigwaki pretty directly, Constable Paul Wright had to abstain from making an appearance today in April’s Real Blog.

After Howard and Jeremy snarked the strip, we went back to the letters. Jeremy had a lunchtime conversation with, among others, Eva, and I had her beat up on the indecisive April over band issues pretty hard. I was pretty surprised the band was not written as progressing more in the May monthly letter, since they reformed back at the beginning of April and introduced at least one person, who is likely to be the new keyboardist in the April 2, birthday strip – the beret guy or the short girl, whom we have been playing as made-up characters Gordie Duroccher and Vicki Simone. I also had Eva snark her relationship with Duncan, since the monthly letters did not say word 1 about it after bringing it up in the strip (or at least a lot of satisified smirking.) It might not be fair to lay the whole blame on April for the band not progressing, but I remember that 4-Evah did not break up when Becky left. It broke up when April left.

Then Howard snarked the grandpa Jim letter with the first appearance of G-man and D-dog. There were so many goofy things in Grandpa Jim’s letter, it was fun to weave them all together.

Tomorrow’s strip: Liz. Your life is like the floating seed preparing to land and put down roots. Please notice, Vivian does not say word 1 about Constable Paul Wright and whether or not he should be consulted about Liz leaving.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Working the Monthly Letters

I am pretty much leaving the Liz monthly letter alone. Constable Paul Wright is the natural one to snark it, but he is frankly too close to the subject to be able to read the business about Liz looking for a job. I suspect he will be the last to find this out, and considering the way the monthly letters have been matching the strip in time, which is to say, not at all, then we don’t know really what is going to happen to Liz except she is leaving Mtigwaki. Paul is going to have to fade out on any strips or any letters which talk about it, until Liz gets around to telling him. Plus qnjones does Liz, and should have the first opportunity to do her take on Liz and this whole story.

I opted for Jeremy to take on the strange behaviour of Deanna, the pharmacist. She is so erratic in her May letter, that it does not take much to snark it. Jeremy Jones became her foil, since he is young enough to potentially qualify for the lice checking which dominated her letter this time around. The sequence was very odd, but I did not have to push it far from the monthly letter to achieve that oddness.

Howard tackled the part of Mike’s letter that dealt with Weed and Carleen. I know that back in Mike’s October, 2005 monthly letter, he mentioned that Weed had already bought his building and he utilized it for its air-conditioning. The strip never mentioned it, and I suppose in retrospect, someone figured out that buildings aren’t cheap and had to come up with a viable reason for Weed to be able to afford it. Hence cometh Weed’s estranged parents who pony up the money. However, for snarking purposes, it was more amusing to me for Weed and Carleen to lie about already owning the building so they could get the money. Mike referred to Weed as being a Designer / Photographer and a quick internet search on those terms together, showed me that what this means is that the photographer can put computer graphics into the pictures. I have never seen Weed do anything of the sort, so I presume one of his staff of 3 does that. Mike’s portrayal of Weed is interesting, because he gives him the same “hard work” = “success” line that he does for all his friends, but at the same time gives credit to Carleen as being a partner in his success and lists what Carleen does, which always seems to me to be the items that would actually make Weed a success. I also had fun with the language in Mike’s letter which implied the hidden side to his relationship with Weed. That has been two monthly letters in a row, in which a sexual relationship between Mike and Weed could be inferred. I think someone in Corbeil has been reading our Mike and Weed snark, and decided to play along.

Aside from that, there is the usual snark on the increasingly ridiculous Liz storyline. Liz is probably going to find out she is not going back to Mtigwaki, until after she has gone to Milborough and while there is accepted for the job in Markham. So I think what we are seeing is the Jesse Mukwa / Liz farewell sequence, or as close as we can get to it, without having an official farewell. It is just as awkward as can be so far, with Liz feeding Jesse straight lines, just like she has done for most of their relationship. Jesse does not seem to be anywhere near as broken up about the idea of Liz leaving as he was at the end of her first school year. I guess he is resigned to the fact that Liz is not going to be his girlfriend after all.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Paul is Doomed

As of tomorrow’s strip, we have the first appearance of Liz homesick since her pre-Shiimsa days. Over January, she made a big deal about how Milborough was no longer her home, but left a lot of ambiguity as to what her plans were. The Lynnions have been sewing the seeds of her discontent in the monthly letters, but not in the strip. And as you know, if it is not in the strip, there is no guarantee it counts.

There's a chance that I'll be able to teach summer school in Mississauga - which is a surprise - and through one of my profs at university, I have a lead on a job in Markham. To score a real job down South would be amazing. I admit, I do think about it a lot.
This statement in the monthly letter pretty much spells it out. Liz will visit Milborough, but will work or commute to Mississauga and then becoming enamored of the area, take a permanent job in Markham. In this fashion she is fulfilling her declaration that Milborough is not her home, but she is still close enough to visit Elly and John.

I'm not looking forward to being separated from Paul for the summer, but I'm going to look into getting a car so I can cover the distance between us.
This makes it sound like she plans to visit Paul after she gets a car.

I'm hoping he'll come and visit me, too. I want him to meet my friends and family. They keep hearing about him and it's getting so that photos aren't enough.
I hope Paul gets to do this also. I have been looking forward to an Anthony / Paul meeting, but I suspect that Paul is going to get the worst of it, if it happens. Most likely, Paul will not visit and be compared to Warren. However, if Paul is willing to travel to Mtigwaki to deliver glasses, he should be willing to make the trip to Milborough.

I know I'll be escaping to see Paul somehow. It's a long drive, but we can meet half way. We haven't worked it all out yet, and to tell you the truth - I just don't want to think about it!
These lines imply Paul has some say in it, but then revert to an “I’m not going to plan it” statement.

The problem is that, thanks to Gary Crane’s statement about not depending on Liz and the appearance of her replacement Susan, we know she is not coming back to Mtigwaki. She seems to be completely unconcerned about Paul’s reaction to her possibly getting the job in Markham. She seems unconcerned that as he is trying to move closer to her, she is trying to move farther away. In fact, far enough away so it will be quite difficult for him to see her on any regular basis. This disdain for Paul, with “I hope he’ll come and visit me” and “I just don’t want to think about” when I am going to see him over the summer, bugs me. How is Lynn going to make Liz do this, without looking like she is intentionally running away from a guy who has been portrayed as giving her everything she has asked for, and not received from other guys? How does she make Liz look like she is not a complete idiot.

It’s a mystery to me.

I Love John

John Patterson is such a great foil for April’s Real Blog, because the strip plays him up as such an idiot. He can’t jog on a treadmill without having an accident. He makes moral judgments about taking out the trash. You can do the most abusive things to him and it still makes sense within the context of the strip.

I popped in posts as Joel of Rufus and Joel from Gasoline Alley and Fitch of Abercrombie and Fitch from Hi and Lois. I couldn’t remember any other characters having to deal with trash from other comic strips.

After these sterling posts and the usual stuff from Constable Paul Wright, Howard and Jeremy Jones, I went to church, and sang some services. There are two adult vocal choirs at my church. One of them does a special concert before Easter, and mine does one the one after Easter. This Sunday was the day of the concert, so my afternoon was pretty well occupied. When I got back, qnjones had pushed forward the idea of Howard and Becky getting married and reasons why this would work. Despite being done for humour’s sake, it seemed like a fairly coherent argument, given the nature and history of Becky and Howard, plus the fact that the strip will conclude long before we can ever see it happen.

Tomorrow’s strip: My jaw dropped when I saw it. Can Lynn Johnston really mean that Anthony’s break up with Thérèse is going to cause Liz to quit her job, leave her boyfriend and come back to Milborough for Anthony? Are we really going to find out that when Anthony asked Liz to wait, she said she would? The mind boggles.