Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Undeserving of the Name

Today’s For Better or For Worse shows Liz at the farewell feast and it is revealed that the giveaway, which was previously espoused by Constable Paul Wright as a great honour is in fact not the main event of this gathering. This made sense, because giveaways are as common as flies. The main event is actually giving Elizabeth a spirit name. It is hard to comprehend what this means, but let me lay it out in Christian terms – It means God (Gichi-Manitou or Great Spirit) knows you’re alive and is going to take care of things when you die. In other words, it is the same as a baptism for a Christian, where the church only lets in Natives and very special guests. A number of websites had persons who described the spirit names in terms of being able to heal and provided them inspiration and direction for their entire lives. This is, in fact, a huge honour, unlike the giveaway which is essentially free for anyone who happens to show up at a powwow. And the kicker of all this, is that the recipient of this honour is someone whom Vivian Crane just laid into some weeks ago as being a flippant Southerner on a vacation. This is someone who Gary Crane was encouraging to leave to make a space for Susan Dokis. Because Jesse Mukwa and his auntie Marg seem to be the authors of this ceremony, it only makes sense, if auntie Marg wields a big stick in the Mtigwaki community. Because when Liz announced she was leaving, only Marg, Jessie, Ellen and Paul Wright were upset. Marg as a power-wielder is very possible. She, at the urging of Jesse, was the catalyst to get the whole town out to that star gazing thing. It is reasonable then that this honour being bestowed on Liz by Jesse and Marg was only made possible because Marg made a big giant stink that she wanted it, and crushed anyone that might have opposed it.

So, today in April’s Real Blog, aside from going on the same tangent as every other FBoFW commentary, by making up funny Indian names for Liz, I also took the approach to try to explain what the spirit name is, why it was unusual for Liz to get one, and the constable also pointed out this all came about because of Jesse and Marg. Yes, Lynn Johnston, once again I am covering these giant, enormous plot holes you are leaving behind. If you wanted to thank me, you could try drawing Liz so she looks like an attractive woman again, instead of like her brother.

No Howard Kelpfroth's Blog tomorrow night. I will be helping my wife and kids pack up things in Glendale.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Today’s strip’s humour relied heavily on the idea that Elizabeth is treating her departure from Mtigwaki just like she did last summer, where she packs and leaves, and for some reason seems to be oblivious to the fact that it is going to be yet another occasion where everyone in Mtigwaki is coming out for a party in her honour, much like the star-gazing incident from last fall. I am honoured, so I must wear a nice dress. That will seem a little odd. There are pictures on the For Better or For Worse website showing the giveaway blanket and the people are not dressed fancy, so I expect strips that will copy from these pictures almost exactly, just as the nicer powwow pictures were copied for last October’s powwow strips.

My guess for the strip intent is that Liz is going to play the humble card, when it comes to receiving the praise and adulation that is going to be coming her way this week. That way we can admire her humility, while at the same time marveling that she has made such an impression on these nice Mtigwaki people. I hope Lynn will describe the giveaway with a little more depth than what she has in her website, because this strip has pushed me into heavy research mode. Most of the websites talking about the giveaway simply list times and places. In fact, and a comment that I had Constable Paul Wright make, was that for some websites, the time was listed like: Tuesday, Thursday, 6 pm. Giveaway. It was like it was a regularly scheduled weekly event. For most of the websites though, it was listed as a part of powwow activities. The only controversy I spotted was people complaining that they were required to do a giveaway whenever anything good happened to them, and they just couldn’t afford it, and they had to get someone else to provide their giveaway items. The idea that Jesse’s auntie would ask Liz to provide some gifts without specifying the reason for the gifts, the approximate nature of the gifts, a price limit, etc. seems absurd to me. I know it’s a part of the idea of making Liz appear humble, but Lynn needs to realize that ignorance does not equal humility. Paul Wright immediately recognizes the ceremony for what it is after a few sentences, and after 2 years of living there, Liz should too.

However, maybe she doesn’t. Liz and Elly trotted out of the powwow early and may have missed the giveaway part. And considering Liz’s reclusive nature, maybe she did not attend the powwow the year prior. It seems impossible for Liz to have intentionally skipped out on an event that virtually everyone in Mtigwaki participates in, particularly the younger children dancers, who are her students. However, the monthly letters only mention the Elly-attended powwow. So, the odd turn of events is either (a) Liz is feigning ignorance or (b) Liz is actually this ignorant of Ojibway traditions after lived there for 2 years. In order to make her look humble, Lynn ends up making her look even more detached and isolated from the people around her than ever. When will Lynn learn? The more she tries to puff up her characters in her readers’ eyes, the more she makes her readers hate her characters. One of the reasons April is probably the best-like Patterson now, is because Lynn has tried to show her faults. While failing to make April a monster, she does appear to be more human.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Susan / Paul / Liz, Gee Whiz

As far as developing the Susan / Paul / Liz triangle, the big clues dropped today are Susan mentioning to Paul that she will be living in the apartment in September, so he knows where to find her. The Paul acknowledges that by saying he will see her around. But after dropping that line, he goes into the clinch with Liz to throw her and the readership off. The setup for the strip is so painfully obvious, if Paul ended up marrying Liz, it would be a majour shock. Working in Paul’s favour is his last name and the sign pointing it out, and the fact that Lynn sometimes drops hints about characters fooling around that don’t ever see the light of day. Years ago, April hinted that she couldn’t trust Becky around her boyfriend, and I seriously doubt we will ever see Gerald / Becky play out in the short time that is remaining on this strip.

In the meantime for me, when I came back over the weekend, I had hoped that someone in some commentary would explain the powwow trail, and found no one that did. So, a little research and I found a nice article talking about it. It sound somewhat akin to the people that work in the Renaissance Festival that travels around the States during the summer, or in Arizona, the people that dress up in Old West style and go down to Tombstone every single weekend to get stinking drunk, or the people who go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend. The big difference is that a lot of the kids that do this to participate in the dance competitions which occur at the powwows. Almost assuredly, Paul Wright and Susan Dokis were dance competitors. I know that we have established in the strip that Constable Paul Wright is ½ Irish and ½ Ojibway, but simple mentioning the powwow trail as an activity clearly puts him in the very traditional Ojibway crowd. I am happy to read that, since I have often thought the only reason he was pegged as Ojibway and Irish was so that Lynn could do that Ojibirish pun. Also, I have been playing Paul as deeply into his Ojibway heritage as a means of developing his character.

It looks like the end of the week is going to be devoted to the Liz praise feast and we get to learn about giveaways. Contrary to Paul Wright’s opinion, I am not sure this being interpreted correctly by Lynn. The definition I found was:

Giveaway is a ceremony that is done on a number of different occasions. There will often be a giveaway during a Pow Wow. Giveaways are normally done when someone has something special happen to them and it is to express their gratitude for this gift.

In a number of websites, I found giveaways associated with the winners of dance competitions at the powwow. In the For Better or For Worse website, they show the giveaway blanket, which I am sure we will see copied for the strip. On some other websites, giveaways are as common as flies with regular giveaways occurring every week. It will be a great honour for Liz, of course. However, the question arises, “Why doesn’t Liz already know about giveaways? She’s been there for 2 years.”

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Back from the Pride March

I love the way the_berserker as Duncan filled in where Howard probably was this weekend, since I was not here this weekend. Thanks the_berserker. I see that aprilp_katje as Marjee Mahaha has set up Howard with someone, so I look forward to writing that one up. I see that Constable Paul Wright has still not let me know where he currently lives. However, I see that his romance with Susan Dokis is on hold until September, at least as far as his visiting her in Mtigwaki goes.

This weekend for me was spent in Glendale, Arizona with my wife, kids and mother-in-law. I discovered that spray-on sunscreen is not as good as rub-on sunscreen. The kids and I got nicely burned in Glendale's 120 degree Fahrenheit weather. I went with the kids to see Nacho Libre. Thumbs down for me, although Jack Black has a couple of funny songs in the movie. With the mother-in-law as babysitter, the Mrs. and I also saw An Inconvenient Truth, which is basically a filmed version of a slideshow presentation Al Gore does on global warming and not that much of a documentary. It was a pretty powerful message, but it could have been improved by (a) leaving out the recap of the 2000 presidential election which seemed inappropriate for the message and (b) including some hard evidence that carbon dioxide does actually prevent heat from the sun from leaving our atmosphere. How hard could it be to expose carbon dioxide to solar energy and measure the temperature dissipation? As it was, he has a nice chart showing the trend of carbon dioxide air content matches earth's increase in temperature over thousands of years, and drew the conclusion that one caused the other. But I have looked over enough environmental data in my life to know that observable trends do not make a conclusion. Sometimes, they just point you in the direction of a conclusion. I still recommend seeing it, because there is some good information there.

There was a person in the audience who loudly heckled Al Gore throughout the picture and the other audience members eventually shushed him out. I have never seen a movie with a heckler before (and Rocky Horror Picture Show does not count). Also, the average age of the audience was quite old, and it was very amusing to hear the old people throughout the picture trying to inspire each other not to fall asleep, in voices attached to bodies that were obviously hard-of-hearing. I leaned over to the Mrs. and said, "Our future." She agreed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I didn’t know it was that Susan Dokis!

This is probably my excuse for tomorrow. In the strip, as qnjones so rightly pointed out over at the FOOBiverse’s Journal, this whole sequence occurred because Liz never talks to anyone about anything. Susan Dokis can’t be that common a name and Paul would have recognized it or asked about it, if Liz talked to him about things other than string theory. On April’s Real Blog we don’t have that excuse. Now, I am really hoping that Liz does not break up with Paul in favour of Susan in the coming week. Because there is so much mischief Paul can do with Susan while Liz is in Mississauga. There is a real possibility it could occur though. Some person on the FOOBiverse’s Journal awhile back, ran into Lynn Johnston at some book-signing where Lynn appeared to not even remember Paul Wright, so we could be kissing goodbye to the good Constable next week.

In any case, I love the Liz strips. She always gets people worked up. Or rather I should say, the idiotic way she is handled in the strip, always gets people worked up. When Elly buys graveyard plots, we are bored to tears. But Liz and her insane love and work life, are interesting, even if they are incredibly stupid.

Tomorrow, we have the “prom” or “end of year dance” scheduled to occur. I will not be able to support this for very long. I will be on the road to Glendale tomorrow evening. So, no new Howard Kelpfroth blogs for a couple of days. Have fun snarking without me, and I will see you again either late Sunday or early Monday.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Suddenly Susan

A strange turn of events today in the strip—Susan Dokis arrives out of nowhere. And what’s more, she pops up in the Who’s Who Section of the For Better or For Worse website. That’s serious business. I had thought Liz was going to head out of Mtigwaki only to return briefly to live up to her promise to say howdy to Jesse Mukwa. The tendency with the Who’s Who Section is to only feature persons who are going to be or have been recurring characters. It took forever for Eva Abuya to get her spot, and Howard never has. Susan showed up for 3 strips in March and now ::boom:: she’s in. There are people who have speculated that she is being set up to allow Constable Paul Wright to have a romantic out, when Liz dumps his butt for Anthony Caine, and I cannot help but think, that her appearance on the Who’s Who Section, could lend some credence to that idea. More likely though, when she goes back to visit Jesse, he has to say “Susan has agreed to be my mother.” And then Susan will make an appearance to show she has made the ultimate sacrifice for Jesse and finally solved his separation anxiety issues. Then Liz can say, “Thanks to me, Jesse has a mom.” I don’t know. However, it seems unlikely to me that there are enough strips this week to get in all that Liz love required at the Liz love feast, so this story will probably run to next week. That way Liz can finish telling Susan her advice that isn’t advice.

qnjones showed up in the Meta to explain why it is that she has been doing very little posting in April’s Real Blog over the last month. April’s Real Blog has gotten to the point with the number of participants where the character assignments are fairly meaningless. Sometimes switching characters can be interesting. Howard is my main guy, and I still get tickled that people refer to me as Howard on these FBoFW commentaries. I will have to admit that I have had more fun lately posting as two unassigned but regularly adopted characters of Shannon Lake and Michael Patterson. So, for the persons who post on April’s Real Blog, who read this nonsense I write over here, I want you to know that if you have a desire to write as any of the characters currently assigned to me, I will be glad to let you have them to do anything you want to do with them. That includes Howard, too. Just let me know that you’re interested, so I don’t step on your toes with a post of my own.

Feasting on Liz

Today’s strip introduced the idea that Liz would be feted Ojibway style and receive at least 2 gifts, 1 from Aunt Marg and 1 from Ellen. It also introduced the idea, by having Jesse Mukwa along that all the problems between him and Liz had been fixed by Monday’s strip. It appeared we were rolling right along to the happy / sad Liz farewell, when out of the blue Susan Dokis shows up in tomorrow’s strip. And it is not the chubby, almost mute Susan Dokis we saw last March, but a new updated and kind of hot Susan Dokis. In other words, a Susan Dokis done by the same person who drew the updated Eva and Beatrice Alfarero, who look remarkably like Susan does. I don’t think Constable Paul Wright will have any trouble falling for this girl.

I can’t tell if Susan is here just so Liz can pass on her sage wisdom of “The kids will teach you everything you need to know!” or if her arrival is part of the same sort of plot that has been running with the Cranes and Liz for awhile now. The evidence is this:

1. Liz showed up Mtigwaki, barely getting confirmation she had the job before the school year started.
2. Liz was not allowed by the Cranes to stay in the Mtigwaki apartment during the summer months
3. Once Susan Dokis made an appearance, Gary Crane’s immediate thought was that Liz would not be there next year.
4. In addition, Vivian Crane basically told Liz that because she had not signed a contract for the next year, she was going to depart and stressed her anti-Southerner prejudices as she did so.
5. Susan Dokis is obviously there to take over the apartment as soon as Liz leaves, so she will not have to support herself without a job until school starts.
6. None of the other kids is even the slightest bit upset that Liz is leaving aside from Ellen and Jesse.

If I am reading this correctly, then what has happened is that Liz took the job, which they offered her because they had no one else to take it. She bonds with Jesse, Ellen/Alice, Jesse’s aunt and that’s it. In other words, aside from Paul Wright, no adult friends not associated with her job. All the evidence is here for this story. Is this really what they are trying to say about Liz’s time in Mtigwaki? She went up there, she did her job, and spent the rest of her time holed up in her apartment writing e-mail to her sister and feeling homesick. What an odd turn of events.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Farewell to Liz

Today we started wrapping up all the lose ends in Mtigwaki, which consists entirely of Liz and Jesse coming to terms with Jesse leaving. I would count Liz and Paul, but that is not really a Mtigwaki loose end. So, after 2 years in Mtigwaki, really all we have to show for it, is that Jesse has a dependent relationship with Liz, because his parents left him and he has been using her for a parental substitute. Only, we don’t actually have that. Jesse as an abandoned child was introduced for the first time last May. Before this, all we really knew about Jesse was that he was nuisance both in the class and out, and he was overly attached to Liz. No family background, no long talks with Liz about his parents, nothing. After 2 years of strips, what should have been a story of Liz struggling to understand another culture, another language, and struggling to be accepted by people who are very different than she is, and struggling to find friends in a completely new place; we got zippo. None of that.

Liz was instaneously accepted. Liz did not have to work to find a boyfriend. He was literally dropped in her lap. Even her stargazing exercise for the village for which she was compared to a star, was entirely orchestrated for her. Aside from Jesse Mukwa’s mild disobedience, Liz had a class of extraordinarily enthusiastic students who hung on her every word. Liz never learned Ojibway and appeared to never even try. As for the cultural differences, those were explored almost entirely by Elly during the 2 times she came to visit and not Liz.

The only 2 struggles Liz had were with Jesse Mukwa, which she solved instantly with a promise to see Jesse again; and with her own homesickness, to which she ultimately succumbed. It’s no wonder she is tossing away Constable Paul Wright without hardly a second thought. When you get something too easily, you don’t appreciate it. And that would be for me the whole morale of this story with Liz and Mtigwaki.

Elizabeth Patterson in Mtigwaki. As a reader, what I have learned about you is that are as arrogant and self-centered as your obnoxious brother. I wish that I had learned you are a self-reliant woman not afraid to break with your family tradition to pursue and make a life different from the way you were brought up. I wish I had learned that you embraced a different culture and sought to make it a better place because you were there. I wish I had seen you examine your beliefs and prejudices because of your experience in Mtigwaki. Instead what I have seen is that you are a white girl who had a nice 2-year working vacation in the Northwest. I don’t know how to read this. Vivian Crane spelled this position out in no uncertain terms, but the rest of the week is likely to be a Liz praiseathon. Are we supposed to admire Liz or mock her? It will be interesting to see how closely Lynn walks to the line between praise and ridicule for the rest of the week. In tomorrow’s strip, it is left ambiguous. Neither Jesse or Ellen tell us how Liz is considered, only that they have feasts for people that they like and people that they don’t like, and usually the person leaving doesn’t know which one they are. It would funny, if at the end of the week, we didn't know either.

Father’s Day

There is a peculiar obsession with Sunday colour comics to mention what the holiday is, whenever a holiday fall on a Sunday, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. So, once again, we see a Patterson dad celebrate Father’s Day. In 2005 and 2004, Mike was the focus. In 2003, all the fathers gathered together, including Grandpa Jim. Grandpa Jim is due, so maybe in 2007, he will take the holiday strip. The real reason I liked this strip was because visually speaking, it was a veritable cornucopia of snark. I wrote up a post for the FOOBiverse’s Journal that focused almost exclusively on all the artistic mistakes and I had to trim it and trim it to get it below the minimum required level to post.

So, each the April's Real Blog characters told stories about their Father’s Day that were intended to contrast the Patterson’s version. Aside from that, I had Mike Patterson point out some startling similarities between his friends as far as Father’s Day goes, i.e. all of them had home life problems. In contrast, April’s friends with home life problems (according to the strip and not April’s Real Blog) have all been cast aside by April as villains.

Tomorrow’s strip: Back to Mtigwaki and hopefully a visit back with Paul, although it is distinctly possible he will not show his face in Liz’s farewell celebration. It would just taint her departure to cheering and acclaim.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Inheritance is an interesting thing. The only time I ever got an inheritance was when my grandparents (my mother’s parents died). It was not a lot of money, but it was something. My grandparents were of the opinion that their children did not need money, since they were grown, but that their grandchildren would, particularly in the area of paying for university education. This deeply disturbed their son (my uncle), whom I now recognize probably has a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, like my son has. My uncle has very poor social skills, which is to say that he can be incredibly unpleasant to be around. When I am around him, I am filled with fear that my son will end up the same way. My uncle has always had a difficulty with employment, and when my grandmother died, my mother worked on his behalf with my grandfather to give him something to help him survive. Likewise, when my grandfather died, my mother also worked to get him some inheritance money, because my grandfather did not want to leave him anything.

So when the strip today talked about April inheriting things, I was struck by the idea that April might not inherit anything. Not for reasons of Mexican vacations or the purchase of an expensive Crevasse, but because when Elly speaks about the future of the family, she mentions the grandchildren and not April. The recent strip sequence was very telling in this. When Elly spoke to April about burial plots, she did not ever look April in the face. It was John who came in to have the close, personal talk with April. We will never see it to tell for sure, but I would bet that April gets nothing. Merrie will get most, if not all of the inheritance money coming from John and Elly.

I did have a slight disappointment today. the_berserker had dropped a line in the Writing Class that Aunt Perdita expected Duncan to show up to listen to the Mighty Gabby at the Barbados on the Water festival, going on in Toronto this weekend. So, I was convinced that this was where Duncan would be caught. the_berserker surprised me by having him caught at Tim Horton’s. I had this whole idea in mind where Eva and Jeremy go to the Barbados on the Water festival and spot things like, Officer Brad Luggsworth disguised in a Carribean outfit, complete with fake wig. And they also spot a mysterious, tall, skinny white guy traveling with Zandra Larson. During the Mighty Gabby part of the concert, the Mighty Gabby asks for the famous hip-hop artist, McDunC to come to the stage to perform with him, but it is a set up. The mysterious, tall, skinny white guy is shown to be Duncan with Charles Wallace on his shoulders, covered by a long coat. Once revealed, he is snagged. I didn’t get to do that story, but no matter. I got to tell what I had planned to do. And that is good enough.

Tomorrow’s strip: John shows exactly how not to do a workout on Father’s Day. We had a workout strip just 2 weeks ago with Elly and Connie. I wonder who will be working out in the next 2 weeks.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Will the Real April Please Stand Up

To Tell the Truth. That was a fun show. I don’t know if it would work today in the land of the internet, but I enjoyed watching D-list celebrities guess the identities of someone with an unusual occupation.

Today on April’s Real Blog, aprilp_katje had a master stroke of inviting characters to mock her or her family. This is actually very much out of character for strip April, and not so much for ARB April, who mocks her family every day. That got Mike Patterson going, and it was his theme for the whole day, on snarking the differences between ARB April and strip April.

Shannon Lake snarked Grandpa Jim’s bizarre sense of humour. The “Well. Well. Well.” joke is very old. My late grandfather told a lot of jokes in his time, and he never, ever told a death joke, to my knowledge. He liked the kind of jokes you would find in Reader’s Digest 30 years ago. In the meantime, in the absence of qnjones, I decided to push the Becky / Luis story forward a bit.

In the meantime, I decided to go with a Jeremy / Eva sitting staking out Zandra Larson’s house for Duncan Anderson plot. Then my kids got back. My boy has been attending a summer camp for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome for the last week and I expected to be joining them this weekend. As it turns out, my wife hates the rental house and she decided to drive back home for the weekend and return to the rental house next week, in the hope that the owner will have satisfied some of her grievances about the place in her absence (dishwasher won’t close, closet door off, and swimming pool full of dirt). My boy hadn’t been on a computer all week, so I dutifully handed it over and thus ended my ARB posting for the rest of the night, until now, of course. It was lucky I did, because his Neopets were starving to death. In any case, my departure allowed susannamoodie and the_berserker to write their versions of Duncan and Eva in Zandra’s bushes, and I decided to do one of my favourite things that I have not gotten to do in so long, which is to take a story someone else wrote and fill in my version of it from a another character’s perspective. Thanks, susannamoodie and the_berserker.

Tomorrow’s strip: April is looking forward to her inheritance. If we are lucky, it will be a spin-off strip from this one called, For April or For Art and Story that Couldn’t Be Worse.”

Friday, June 16, 2006


The wife and kids have been gone this week to Glendale, Arizona, so my son can attend a summer camp for children who have Asperger’s Syndrome. One of the pleasant side effects is that I can go see movies after work is over, without the risk of offending someone. This evening’s offering was The Proposition starring Guy Pierce, Emily Watson, and with a brief but superb turn by John Hurt. I had heard almost nothing about the film except that it was good, and more often than not, I prefer to walk into a movie ignorant. With the movies my kids want to see, invariably there will be previews of the movie more than a year before the actual release of the movie, so by the time I actually get to see the movie, there will be little about it I haven’t seen or couldn’t guess. With The Proposition, I wasn’t sure how it was going to end and so I was pleasantly surprised when it did not end the way I expected.

I wish the same could be said for For Better or For Worse, which grows more and more predictable as each strip appears. One thing that is certain about Grandpa Jim is that whenever he is in the strip he completely dominates it. He even trumps Elly as far as lines and getting the final joke of the strip goes. So, when he shows up, you know that every strip is going to end with him having the punch line and he will invariably say something mildly offensive or something with supposed wisdom and sometimes both. I look forward to more of the same tomorrow and Saturday.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Now Let’s Invite (Tell) Grandpa

the_berserker has started a story of the fugitive Duncan Anderson, and so most of my characters played off him being a missing child. I found a RCMP survey on missing children and their characteristics, and I was quite surprised at how well they fit the way the_berserker has been playing Duncan all year with constantly missing school, or sleeping all day in his bedroom and the like. I must say, a masterful characterization by the_berserker to put all that into play before Duncan runs off. I tried in vain to find Ojibway missing children statistics and oddly enough found only a few situations where Ojibway children, who had been sent to the big city for education, and didn’t come back. My guess is that either no one has collected the information specifically for Ojibway, or this is not as big a problem as it is for non-Natives. In any case, the statistics were interesting. The vast majority of missing children in Ontario are runaways and the vast majority of them are girls, which I found a little surprising. the_berserker posted about doing squeegie work for money, and I found a number of references to the Squeegie Kids as a uniquely Canadian term. The squeegiers I have run into from time to time in the States, although not in Tucson, have by and large been adults and usually your windshield is dirtier after they are done than before they started. They work on the “pay me money so I will go away” method. I do not know the quality of the work of the Squeegie Kids, so I just guessed it was about the same.

In the meantime, Elly put the pressure on grandpa Jim to go to his final rest with her, and he relents and also asks for a spot for ½ Iris, which Elly did not mention in her original request, and I find it interesting that she did not. I have never been really sure why Iris or her family has not been accepted by Jim and the Patterson clan. I have a step-mom, my dad married while I was in university; so there was no bond of having her as a parent. Nevertheless, I have met her ex-husband, her ex-husband’s wife, her brother, her sister and all their kids. I had met her mom and dad on several occasions before they both passed away last year. I don’t understand why the Pattersons are portrayed as being so separated and not able to get along with other people. It is very confusing to me. It does not match my own experience.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nacho Libre, Duncan gone

The Arizona Daily Star had a contest where they did a lottery to give away a number of tickets to the new Jack Black comedy, Nacho Libre. The tickets were a voucher, which actually said, “First Come, First Serve.” I showed 30 minutes early. This was apparently not long enough, because the lady handling the movie said people showed up 2 ½ hours early for the picture. But then she said to the crowd in general, “You have to get here early to see a blockbuster.” Nacho Libre is not a blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination. My voucher was for 2 tickets and my family is out of town right now, so I asked people at work if they wanted to go with me, and their response was generally, “If you give me 50 dollars, I will go sit through it.” Needless to say, I didn’t cough up 50 dollars, but the publicity group takes the vouchers and they are supposed to mail us that didn’t get there early enough, something to make up for the fact we came to the theatre and didn’t get to see the film. No matter to me. I saw Prairie Home Companion instead. I can see Nacho Libre with the kids this weekend, if they want to see it, which they do. I am pretty sure I will prefer to see it than Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.

April’s Real Blog had Lawrence Poirier as the guest blogger, in protest against the daily strip again. So, I did some Lawrence snark with Michael Patterson and Howard, who have some relationship with him. aprilp_katje said she is likely to go with a guest blogger again tomorrow, but to me, tomorrow’s strip is imminently snarkable, so I will try to find some way to use it. I had Jeremy Jones put Duncan at school today, whereas the_berserker put him as not at school. So susannamoodie nicely covered the difference by saying Jeremy’s statement was an intentional misstatement by Zenia. Thanks, susannamoodie.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Duncan and Duncan

Today, aprilp_katje opted out of continuing the gravesite snark and did a guest post by Jeremy Duncan from the comic strip Zits. This effectively pulled the characters of Constable Paul Wright and Michael Patterson and Howard K. out of the conversation, because they really have nothing to say to Jeremy Duncan about his love life or his upcoming party at Pierce’s house. That left Shannon Lake and Jeremy Jones. So, Jeremy and Jeremy had a little convo going snarking on the current Zits storyline, until aprilp_katje did the scheduled Duncan Anderson birthday party. Initially I thought it was going to be just aprilp_katje and me again, but susannamoodie as Zandra, showed up with her usual one-post a day on her own Blog, and the_berserker wrote some stuff up finally detailing the long-awaited events of Duncan's Niagara Falls trip. It wasn’t fast and furious, but there was some nice interplay and I enjoyed doing it.

Tomorrow’s strip: Well, the cemetery manager appears to be a fairly jolly fellow. He has had the punch line 2 days in a row. And they have been pretty weak. In fact, only Elly speaks briefly in this strip. So, I am guessing another guest poster in April’s Real Blog tomorrow.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Last FOOBiverse’s Journal entry

I was pretty happy the last one I did, did not have anything to do with funerals. I feel sorry for qnjones having to launch into it with the second week of that dreadful story. But at least Elly and John are out of the house staring at each other. The fascinating part about doing the FOOBiverse’s Journal is that you get the e-mail notification of everything posted there. During the week with Liz going crazy, the number of e-mails was staggering. But it is fun to go through them one by one and see the chronological order of the entries. Frequently it will be 3 or 4 by the same person commenting on different things. The other fun part is when people will make some comment on a Journal entry from days ago. There was one Anonymous poster who got into it with a regular poster and their argument went for days and days on the same Journal entry. The other interesting trend was that initially, people would say “Good job, howtheduck.” But after the very first week I got the post that said, “So. When is cookie coming back?” And then there were much fewer compliments. It was quite humbling. It made me realize that where cookie77 excels (contrary to cookie’s own opinion of herself as concentrating on dialogue) is that cookie is good at pointing out the parts of the strip that will spark conversation. The other thing is that cookie is freakishly consistent. This is first time I can remember her taking a break. I don’t think there are any other comic strip commentators that are as consistent as cookie. Even the Comics Curmudgeon takes days off. Anyway, I had my month. It was fun. But I am sick of panel-by-panel analysis. Until I go on vacation, I will probably go a different route.

Today on April’s Real Blog, it was the "aprilp_katje and howtheduck" show again. aprilp_katje upped the Mike ante, by having the press involved in his activities. That was a great launch off point for me, since it occurred to me that Deanna’s dad owns a chain of hardware stores, so Mike, by all rights, should be extremely well equipped and he very much isn’t. My Howard post stole liberally from eeknight’s FOOBiverse’s Journal snark about carpentry (need to give credit). Then Constable Paul Wright did a couple of legal quotes stealing from Toronto housing websites. After that, my favourite post of the day, was Jeremy Jones getting a sore neck from watching Eva teach April how to smirk, forcing him to stare at their breasts over and over again. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s strip is back to the gravesite. Hopefully, the salesman will provide some comic relief, although judging from the joke tomorrow it looks doubtful.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cars and Death and Rent

Today, the family went to go see a showing of Pixar’s Cars with the kids and fought the massive crush or crowd that accompanies such an outing on opening weekend. We got to the mall theatre and the showing we had planned to attend was sold-out, so we had to wait around for the next showing. As happens in these kinds of situations, our family got penned in by other people arriving and the kids drank most of their drinks and ate most of their popcorn before the movie was very far into starting. Also, the movie is rated “G”, so it attracts a different crowd than the “PG” crowd, which means younger and louder. My children, of course, had to take bathroom breaks during the course of the movie, which meant that 2 times, I and one of my kids had to walk in front of people to get out. There was a particularly impatient little girl who started shrieking she couldn’t see each time we passed her for the full 1 second she couldn’t see. That was lots of fun. The movie is good, probably on the level of another Pixar film, A Bug’s Life, but not with the same quality as Pixar’s The Incredibles or Finding Nemo. This was mainly because the humour was predictable and there was a glaring plot hole at the end of the film, where the main character race car's new-found friend cars show up unexpectedly without any reasonable explanation. Kid’s pictures are usually the dregs of the movie world, so compared to that standard, Cars was excellent.

Before we left, I had a Blogger battle to get my usual 5 posts in. The little window got errors after I opened the window again and again and again. I knew it was working, because I could easily open the Howard Kelpfroth Blog window, which does comments right on the same window. There is something about Blogger having to open a separate comment window for April’s Real Blog that makes it fail a lot.

In any case, today’s strip continued the burial discussion and fortunately for me, aprilp_katje chose to make a lot of extra comments to give me something to work with. I kept trying to find Ojibway burial rituals, but I got website after website complaining about the violation of Ojibway burial mounds across history. So, I finally gave in and made Paul’s response deal with that. Howard’s post had to do with AIDS, which is a big, big deal with my homosexual friends, but I cannot recollect it ever have been mentioned in For Better or For Worse, despite the fact some of its prominent characters are gay. And for Shannon I researched the health difficulties of the mentally retarded. There was quite a bit of that also. It was pretty sad. I have a second cousin, who is special needs, like Shannon. She lives with her mom and dad and has done so, all of her life. Her mom and dad are now in their 60s and they are facing some pretty serious issues about who is going to get to take care of her, after they die. She is a very independent woman, involved big time with Special Olympics, but I do not know if any of her 3 brothers or their wives is up to the task. I thought of this situation as I wrote the Shannon perspective. Overall, I was quite pleased that I had managed to wring something else out of this dreadful death week of For Better or For Worse.

Tomorrow’s strip: In the FOOBiverse’s Journal, this was my last strip to write up for cookie77, as qnjones takes over tomorrow. I was actually pretty pleased with this strip. It showed an astonishing level of character development for both Mike Patterson and Melville Kelpfroth, showing sides of them that were not just animosity over apartment noise. Melville showed a little softer side and my initial thought was, “Who wrote this thing?” Melville has been a one-note character since he was introduced around this time last year, and I wonder whose idea it was to develop the character. He is actually trying to point out to Mike that he doesn’t need to make a repair for free. Mike tries to point out that it isn’t for free, it’s for old lady hugs. Creepy, but true. Everyone loves Lovey, but when I go back to the strips which showed Mike and Dee checking out the apartment for the first time, my thought was, “Cheap old woman won’t get anything repaired.” And as I recollect, she also doesn’t clean apartments after one person vacates them.

I remember a roommate in university, who worked at a steak restaurant on weekends. He would be there from literally the crack of dawn until the restaurant closed late at night. Then he would come home starving. I remember asking him why he didn’t get food at the restaurant, and he responded that workers don’t eat. But my roommate just loved the old lady who owned and ran the restaurant and talked about her with lavish praise. My thought always was, “How could you let a guy work all day without a break?” I never understood it, but then again, that roommate was a little odd. That situation reminds me a lot of Lovey. When I think of Lovey I think, “Nice grandma. Lousy landlady.”

Friday, June 09, 2006

This Death Talk is Sucking the Life Out of My Snark

I just couldn’t do another day of Elly and John planning their funeral. greytail088 popped up as Vicki Simone and it was like a breath of fresh air, to have someone else snarking the strip, aside from me and aprilp_katje. And also susannamoodie showed up with a new Zandra Larson spot, which is good too, but the interaction there is a lot slower, since Zandra only posts once a day. I have not gotten my characters to the point where it would be comfortable for them to admit that they read Zandra’s blog, and hints I have dropped to move my character of Jeremy Jones in that direction have utterly failed to attract attention. It is probably not meant to be. I had Jeremy Jones drop a whole pile of possible storylines for Zandra and 1 for Vicki and we will see where it goes. I actually do have tickets to see a sneak preview of Nacho Libre, the new Jack Black movie, but they are not until Tuesday. So, I can tell you what I think of the movie after that point.

Tomorrow, I do my last FOOBiverse’s Journal writeup for the Sunday colour strip and then (unless cookie77 tells me differently), qnjones will take over until cookie77 comes back from vacation. I am looking forward to what qnjones will do with it, and the panel-by-panel style that cookie77 prefers. I have family vacation times coming up soon, so it is necessary for me to hand it off. This week has been mind-numbingly awful to snark and I can only hope for qnjones’ sake, and for my own, that Saturday’s strip is the last one we will see on burial-planning for a long, long time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Big Blogger Fight

Every post today on April’s Real Blog was an effort. I think I tried at least 5 times for each one. I was on what I thought was a funny idea to have multiple characters carry on as if Elly were planning her funeral to the hilt. I was pretty sure that in tomorrow’s strip, John would not suck Elly in a vacation subject, but Elly would suck John into the cemetery conversation and that certainly proved to be the case. I am not sure where to go from here as far as taking Elly to extreme funeral-preparation land. Not only that, I kept on wondering why I was going to all this trouble. Originally I was popping up posts early in the day with the hope that someone else would see them, read them, and then add their own. I had been intentionally downscaling the ARB back story on the posts to make the comments more palatable to someone only familiar with the strip. That has not proved to be the case. I am going to have to rethink what I have been doing.

In the meantime, my time doing the FOOBiverse’s Journal entries is coming to an end. Having been on the cookie77 side of the house for officially a month today, I now appreciate how much trouble it is to do that journal every day and to produce even moderately funny material in quick reaction to when the Yahoo Comics puts it up at midnight Eastern.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Walking Down Morbid Lane

I have had a running joke with Constable Paul Wright and April that every time she writes about her stuff in April’s Real Blog this week, she has had to deny the possibility that Elly is close to death. Frankly Thursday’s strip just about puts this over the top. For Better or For Worse is walking down Morbid Lane as we find Elly’s plans for the future are basically to die, and if she is lucky, come back to nag people as a ghost. But first, we must find a discount place to do it. I am reminded of the writings of Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain, when he got older and older, he got so cynical and death-oriented that no one liked his stuff any more. For Better or For Worse is showing all the signs of latter day Mark Twain. It’s weeks like this week, where I can really feel Lynn Johnston’s influence over the plotting of the strip. Imagine if you will, a week in Corbeil when Lynn pops in and inundates her employees with discussion of hers and Rod’s funeral plots. The next thing you know, we get to read about it. I am looking forward to the strip, where Elly describes how, now that she is older, she is growing hair in places she never grew hair before. Or maybe a nice sequence on arthritis.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Elly is Worried About Age Instead of Fat

I know we have previously seen Elly not get upset over Senior’s discounts, but now it appears times have changed. According to the website, Elly was born on August 26, 1951, so her 55th birthday is rapidly approaching. Where I live, Senior’s discounts don’t occur until you are 65 years old, but as has been established very clearly, in Milborough people retire pretty early. Steve Nichols and Greg Thomas are both long since retired, and they are supposedly around Elly and John’s ages. I would think Elly would be more concerned about looking 55 when she was years younger than 55, not when she was 2 months away from it. I wonder if they are going to do 55 flamingos in the yard? Snarkwise, this was a difficult one. None of my characters has direct access to a coffee shop conversation with Moira and Elly, so I worked with what I could. Tomorrow’s strip is funnier than today’s strip, but it bears the same difficulties in snarking through other character’s references.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I've Retired But I Can't Leave

I had hoped that Elly would be visiting Moira and Beatrice to set up April still works here, but it appears now that this story arc is just for Elly to tell us what she has been doing. We have seen her clean and we have seen her take care of the kids. We have not seen her taking any classes or starting to write, and frankly, given that strips showing Pattersons writing are deathly dull, we should count our blessings we have not been shown that. But Elly taking the photography course could have been interesting, since it would put her in a venue in which she has not been since pre-April (the character and not the month). We are still in the "tell, but don’t show" strip material, and so we are stuck in the same environment as always. I had secretly hoped we would never see Lilliput’s again, once Elly retired, but I now have this fear that every few months, Elly will drop in on Moira, collect the rent and make her listen to another whole list of things she has been doing that we have not seen, with the accompanying old person or retirement joke to make it all worthwhile. Eventually, she will make me long for her old nonretired, telephone book-eating days.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Death by Boredom or by Jogging?

For today’s strip, I knew it was going to be a stretch to snark anything about it. Ultimately, Jeremy Jones did a snark on Connie Poirier’s hovering as she jogs. Otherwise, my characters mainly leapt on aprilp_katje’s post as April that she let Gerald go under her bra. I was glad this was one of those days when aprilp_katje included lots of extra material over and above the actual strip, or there would have been nothing.

Tomorrow’s strip: We are now back to Elly visiting Lilliput’s after Moira has made her changes. I don’t know what more Lynn can do with Elly here, aside from what she has already done in tomorrow’s strip. It is possible, however, that we may be started on an April story having to do with her working in Lilliput’s without mom being the owner, as was mentioned prominently in the June monthly letters. As far as the character development goes, it gives more proof that the success of Lilliput’s during Elly’s ownership, depended primarily on Moira Kinney’s own work ethic, since Elly was obviously no good at dealing with customers.

Jokes So Bad, They Have to be Explained

Many times the jokes in the comic strips are so obscure or poorly done, they require explanation. Many of the comic strip commentary websites are based on the premise of "I have no idea what this strip is talking about? Please help." We have had a few of those with For Better or For Worse, but today is the first day I can think of, when the character actually explained her own joke. It wasn't even necessary. If she had said something like, "Leaving Mtigwaki just tears me up" and there was a big old tear rolling down her cheek, I think I would have gotten the joke. Since lettering is added last, it made me wonder if the dialogue was altered because the artist failed to add any tears to explain what should have been an obvious joke.

That explanation though, provided most of snarking for the day. I popped in a few posts early today, and then it was off to a children's birthday party at a place called Rocks and Ropes, which is a wall-climbing place that requires the adults to belay the kids. After 3 hours of belaying my son and daughter I was a little tired. The parents of the child whose birthday party it was, just finished a particularly nasty divorce, and so much of the party was spent by my wife getting stories of nastiness that the two have been visiting upon each other. Then I took the kids to the jewelry store, so they could pick out their mother's wedding 14th anniversary jewelry gift. Then I prepared a Sunday school lesson for the junior / senior high kids at our church on Pentecost Sunday, which is tomorrow, in case you were interested.

After all that, I expected to roll into April's Real Blog, like I do on weekdays, and find the last post of the day was aprilp_katje's response to my two little posts. I was filled with a mixture of envy and excitement as I saw a number of posts there, indicated the return of qnjones and the_berserker. I wish I had been around to participate. What I like about April's Real Blog is the interaction. The last several days have been pretty interaction-less, and so I hate to miss out when it happens. But there will probably be more of that tomorrow. Weekends are the times when I get to spend the most time with the kids.

Tomorrow's strip: Elly and Connie jog to the pastry store. Ho Hum! How can you snark a joke that has been done about virtually every fat comic strip character since the beginning of time?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Not Going to Muck with Mukwa

The Mtigwaki smackdown continues as Liz fails to get Jesse to talk to her, or to even speak sensibly to him. It has been an astounding week with Liz's poor traits getting the close up view in the strip. qnjones has snarked the Liz like nobody's business, but the strip itself is just laying into her. Gary wants her to leave so he can bring Susan Dokis in, and he makes not qualms about pointing that out to Liz. Vivian jumps all over her for making plans without including Paul. Paul gets mad for Liz cutting him out of the planning. Jesse jumps all over Liz for simply leaving, or maybe because he had to find out from Gary Crane. Liz has been smacked around so much, that must be the reason she is unable to tear up when she writes to April about leaving.

It is so strange for us here at April's Real Blog to snark on Liz's obvious incompetence, but to have the strip lay her incompetence bare for everyone to see astounded me. I can't think of any other time when a Patterson has been treated like this in this strip. Is the author trying to divorce us, as the reader, from liking Mtigwaki anymore, so that we can accept Liz back in the South? If that is the case, then unfortunately for the author, I like Mtigwaki more than ever, but I applaud the effort. It has allowed me to see Liz in a whole new light than before.

June Monthly Letters

Today’s monthly letter did a significant retcon of the way Liz has been portrayed in the strip with Paul. The letters show her sympathetic for what she asked him to do, the letters have her say she loves Paul. The letters ditched Markham for the permanent job, and say she is going to hunt around for a job. I think they are desperately trying to make Liz look sympathetic and not foolish, so when Constable Paul Wright pulls the plug on the relationship, he will seem like the inflexible Northwesterner.

This morning I got up early to do my morning posting on April’s Real Blog, only to find my boy had beaten me to the computer. Since there is no interaction with other posters until aprilp_katje gets home from work, it doesn’t really matter when I get those in. Between that and my actual paying job and having to produce the mid-day FOOBiverse Journal entry for the June monthly letters, I didn’t get there until after aprilp_katje wrote in her worm post. It was a busy day.

Tomorrow’s strip: Jesse goes silent. The people rejoice. I am not sure how Liz can resolve all Jesse’s problems and make a clean break from Mtigwaki in Saturday’s strip. I fear this one may continue through next week. Liz is a minor goddess in Mtigwaki, so I am sure there will be many people testifying how wonderful she is when she departs and that may take all next week. I hope not though.