Thursday, August 31, 2006

Home Again, Home Again

Today’s For Better or For Worse was basically a rehash of the prior day bombshell that Liz would move back into the Sharon Park Drive. I enjoyed writing some of the Patterson allure aftermath stuff with some of the characters and I really didn’t concentrate on Elly using Liz to throw John’s retirement house in his face. Mike posted about it, but used the same old snark about the very first Christmas where Mike and Deanna visited each of the parents separately over Christmas and ironically April complained about how Mira Sobinski always got her way. It is ironic considering that Mira Sobinski almost never gets her way in this strip. Every holiday celebration is at the Patterson house from that Christmas on and she has been thrown out of Dee and Mike’s place no less than 3 times. The Constable Paul Wright post was the toughest one to do, because every step Liz takes in the strip these days, is another step away from him.

The commentaries on For Better or For Worse were interesting today. Most railed on Liz as a loser for moving back in with her parents, while some others pointed out that communal family living is common where they are. All of my siblings never returned home once they left for university. However, I remember in the town where I grew up, one of my best friends in high schools family had lived in that area of North Carolina for several years and their family property very much had that community family feel. The eldest child would inherit the big family house and raise their children there. His parents would move to a nearby house (the grandparents home) where they had their privacy but were close enough to the action to help out and be helped out. Other children would be given or purchase parts of the land where they would raise their kids and build their own grandparents homes. My friend had dozens of cousins. After he left university, he went back home and not being the first born, was expected to get a job, a wife and find his own place locally, which he did. Then he moved out. But his family had no expectation of him leaving until he was ready to be married. I think this is really the family situation to which Liz is going. She has proved she can be independent. Now it’s time to come home and be with her family until she is ready for the wedding, or turns into a maiden aunt, which used to be the custom and not considered to be the shame it is today. Liz was really meant to be a woman of the 1890s.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Coming Home (or Take this Anvil out of my Head)

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we have a hint that Liz may plan to move back into the Sharon Park Drive house. The hint is fulfilled in tomorrow’s strip. I was stunned. How did this happen? Why is Lynn so obsessed with the idea that Liz has to be with Anthony that this whole plot with Liz is literally being bludgeoned into place?

This is my theory. About 2002, Lynn started being less and less involved in the strip. Just comparing Sunday’s strip to today’s strip, it is readily apparent that more than one artist is involved. And since the style of the art does not look like Lynn’s style anymore, I have to presume that her contributions to the art are marginal at best. At some book-signing months ago, some person asked Lynn Johnston about Constable Paul Wright, and she did not remember him, which many posters to the FOOBiverse’s Journal interpreted as a sign he was toast. He is going to be toast, but I think the reason Lynn didn’t know about the good constable is that she was unaware he even existed.

In other words, I think a Lynnion or Lynnions invented Paul Wright, with the intent that he would woo and marry Liz, being Mr. Wright, and Liz would be able to settle down in Mtigwaki permanently and that was going to be the ending of the strip. However, I have seen signs of Lynn returning back to the strip, i.e. some strips have been actually funny and harken back to the old funny days of the strip. Lynn may have come back in after an extended vacation and said, “Well, it’s time to get Liz back together with Anthony for the ending” and the Lynnions say, “Holy crap! We have her set up with a handsome native boyfriend.” Then Lynn says, “Fix it.” Then we, the reader, get Liz plots that go completely against the character of Liz as has been presented up to this point. That’s the only way I can make sense of this crazy plot.

As for April’s Real Blog, I enjoyed playing off the old Patterson allure, which qnjones picked up on fantastically, with Disney love songs. I really struggled with the Paul Wright post today, because the move home is so blatantly anti-Paul. I had a hard time imagining a real Paul character who would not be very upset with Liz moving back into her parents’ house. I am going to be fascinated to see how they retcon this Liz in the September monthly letters.

Also, I keep forgetting to give love to aprilp_katje for her marvelous ignoring of Shannon Lake's posts. It is perfect strip April.

See You At Christmas

In today's For Better or For Worse, Liz / Lynn makes a grand leap in logic without considering how real people act in certain situations. By saying Liz will not see Constable Paul Wright until December, it strained what little logic makes sense in their relationship. I worked it so Constable Paul Wright would never get any holiday or weekend off, even for vacation. Going through that exercise only confirmed in my mind how ridiculous the idea of Liz not seeing Paul until December is. If he is willing to apply for a transfer 2 times to be with her, if he is willing to drive her home, if he wants her to meet his parents so badly; it makes no sense whatsoever for him to suddenly decide he isn't going to try to make the trip as often as he can. Liz, I can understand, since she bitched and moaned about Warren never coming to see her, when he lived in British Columbia and she had 2 months off over the summer and could go visit him.

My family and I saw the touring show of The Lion King tonight. It was terrific and I recommend it to you, particularly as a part of a touring show, where is a lot cheaper to see the show than on Broadway.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Job Hunting the Patterson Way

Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse started a Liz story arc, which should be necessary to establish that Liz is going to be staying in the south. The main complaint about the method used had less to do with the idea that she could get a job at the last minute, or that someone had to get divorced in order for it to happen, but that there was no mention of Liz having even tried to find this job. The curious question is whether or not the new job will cause Liz to have to move again. There was a quite a bit of text describing her housing situation and the 2 other roommates in the last monthly letter. I would expect that there might be a little roommate character development there under normal circumstances, but Lynn is under the gun to get Liz married by the end of the strip, which is a little over a year away. I expect that every time Liz shows up, Anthony will follow soon after. The next question in my mind is when Lynn is going to drop the anvil on Constable Paul Wright. I have been dutifully covering his mixed affections for Liz and Susan Dokis, but I can see the new job as a means by which Liz can say, “See. I can make it in the south. Why don’t you have that transfer yet? You said you would apply for it back at the end of May and it’s been 3 months now.” She still has Anthony / Liz courtship and proposal to do, and one year doesn’t leave much time for wedding preparation in this strip. She has to knock off good constable soon.

Posting for Michael today, caused me to go back and look at those old courtship and wedding strips with Deanna. In it, I was fascinated to uncover that Deanna actually had the expectation that after she announced to Michael she was engaged, she wanted him to ask her to wait. It seemed somewhat ironic to me that this was the exact same message expressed by Anthony to Elizabeth a year ago. From the perspective of the person writing the script for the strip, Anthony’s plea to Liz to wait, which virtually every commentary I have seen attacked because of Anthony’s insensitivity to Liz having just been attacked by Howard, may have been Anthony doing right, what Mike did wrong back in 1998 when he was courting Deanna. Of course, my opinion was that Mike did right by not trying to get Deanna to break her engagement. Sometimes you can’t just use the same plot over and over again.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pillow Fight

The theme for the day in For Better or For Worse was pillow fighting. By the time I rolled my sunburned body out of bed, I saw aprilp_katje had already launched into 3 posts to herself by different characters. I followed with my usual set of 5, trying to continue on the theme of pillow fighting. However, my feeble posts were no match for qnjones’ who topped me with Gerald’s mother breaking bones when she was hit by a pillow and Krystle McGuire popping breast implants, when she was hit by a pillow. I leveraged off of Krystle’s situation into a general breast conversation between Howard, Becky and Marjee Mahaha. That was about all I had for the day.

Tomorrow’s strip: I saw this one coming a mile away. Liz has a job dropped in her lap. I notice that the idea originally presented in Liz's Letter, May 2006:

and through one of my profs at university, I have a lead on a job in Markham.

Has been abandoned for Glenallen Public School, which, as near as I can tell, is a made-up school system. I think this is a smart idea on Lynn’s part, because when she went to Mississauga with Liz, one of the easiest things to snark about it was that there was no summer school for the elementary ages in the Peel District School Board, the school system for Mississauga. By using a made up school, instead of Markham, Lynn avoids having to deal with issues like how schools actually work and other pesky details like that. Of course, the_berserker and/or susannamoodie should feel free to let me know if there is actually a Glenallen Public School.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

April Fears Education

Today's For Better or For Worse was once again, another joke made, which only worked if you ignored the character's demonstrated background. April has talked about going to university several times in her monthly letters, and Elly has made a big deal about the importance of the university education she missed because she got married and started making babies. Both Elizabeth and Michael went to University and got at least 4-year degrees. John went to school for his DDS, which would be even more education than 6 years. Laura is currently going to school for her pre-vet and Auntie Bev is already a veterinarian. The idea that April would be taken aback by a 6-year education is patently ridiculous. If Uncle Danny had said, "There are only 4 vet schools in all of Canada, and they severely limit the number of accepted applicants, so that many students wait year after year to get in; then I can understand. But as presented, the joke is another attempt at humour taken at the sake of April's own history. After 2 weeks of this, we get that (1) April can't handle horses, (2) April can't handle roosters, (3) April can't even clean out a barn without falling into horse poop, (4) April is slightly disturbed by the smells of surgery, and (5) April is coddled by Laura and Dr. Simmons in the veterinary office. Judging just on the basis of what is presented in the strip about April and animals, I would have to agree with the assessment of Dr. John Patterson. I am surprised she didn't pass out.

No posts from me today. I got up early in the morning and took the kids to a Boy Scout outing to which mothers and sisters were invited, a float down the Salt River in Mesa, Arizona. It was more adventurous than I thought it would be. The person preparing us for the trip, told us we would be 3 hours on the river. As it turned out, we were 5 hours on the river with the blazing sun beating down upon us on the nice reflective water. I slathered my daughter and son in sunscreen and had them reapply a few more times as we were floating down the river and they still got burned. I got burned too. Anyway, we arrived back home, got supper, bought groceries including burn relief spray. After all that was said and done it was too late to do any April's Real Blog posting. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow's strip: The Return of Pillow-Fighting. The last time a pillow was used in combat in For Better or For Worse was in this strip: It was not nearly as amorous as Elly and John in the Sunday colour. Pillow fights used to be a Patterson standard, however, the last fun pillow fight was all the way back in this strip:

One of the things I was struck by, when I first discovered the Houston Chronicle's on-line back strips of For Better or For Worse went back further than the FBoFW website's archive, was that John and Elly, back in 2001 and 2002, used to show affection for each other quite often. My theory, based on the artwork, was that Lynn Johnston's stake in the art and writing of the strip significantly diminished in February 2002. A writer, other than Lynn, would not feel the same urges Lynn does to show John and Elly in love. Because of this, I was convinced this was the reason Elly and John were more often shown to be cold to each other, because the new writer liked this type of marital relationship better. I am quite happy to see the pillow fights return. It means Lynn is starting to become more active in her strip in the last year of its existence.

If you were to monitor the FOOBiverse Journal's recent snark, you will discover that many of the snarkers have begun to find strips they like, and for which they have no snark. If Lynn is truly working on the strip again, we can expect a fine year ahead of us. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Elly Faints

Today's For Better or For Worse was one of those strips where logic and characterization were sacrificed in order to make a joke. The idea that Elly Patterson, cleaner of messes, flapper of menopause and bearer of 3 children would faint at the mere mention of April and blood is patently ridiculous. I see this method of doing humour all the time in Hollywood children's movies. Garfield in Garfield II: A Tale of Two Kitties will have an elaborate scene of different kinds of animals all gathered together in a kitchen to make lasagna, and then they all eat it at the dining room table sitting in chairs like people do. Sounds funny, but how do you make it fit into a plot? Why is the kitchen deserted? Why do the animals sit like people? Those are little basic questions that made even my young children stare at the screen in silence, with nary a laugh produced. And here it is in For Better or For Worse. You have to have some sort of internal working logic. So, I had Jeremy take April's same e-mail message which caused Elly to faint and created an internal working logic that indicated any middle-aged woman reading the same material would faint. It doesn't have make sense why any would faint, but if you establish the basic principle of it, action (reading April's e-mail) = reaction (fainting by middle-aged women), then you can make everything fit. As the strip stood, with the character of Elly as has been presented over the last 27 years, fainting wasn't funny, unless the strip has moved to self-parody, which I am beginning to believe it has. Many commentaries suggested that Elly was so bored by the story arc this week, that it put her to sleep. That would actually be funny. But unfortunately, the joke was on the word "passed".

Tomorrow's strip: April has made a career choice only to have the Patterson habit of having everything come easy to them smack her in the face. Will April go for a career that is not dropped into her lap? Alas, we will never know, unless Lynn Johnston decides not to retire the strip but hand it off to others, next year, as I am sure her syndicate would love for her to do. Can you say, veterinary tech? You still get to work with animals, but you don't have to fight as hard in school. Or perhaps April will go the route my sister did, when she discovered she really didn't want to be veterinarian, cat breeder. The seeds have been sown for April to consider veterinarian as a career. Now, all she needs to do is go home and avoid her father like the plague, Mr. John "I'm surprised you didn't pass out" Patterson. What April needs now is a good old-fashioned dose of Grandpa Jim. I'm surprised we got through this without an appearance by Grandpa Will and Grandma Carrie, and since April is leaving, I guess that's not going to happen. Next week should be a Michael story arc, since it has been the longest since we did one with him, although there is an issue with Liz's next job, which, if they were operating in real-time would have to be resolved next week, since I believe teachers for the fall will be arriving at their schools to prepare for the following week with students.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Career Selection Strip, Part IV

It was a difficult day for snarking. I kind of picked on the fact that April mysteriously decided to compare human and animal surgeries after experiencing her first spay operation. The other snark was over the idea that a real veterinarian would never allow someone as young as April to assist. Inexplicably, the various For Better or For Worse commentaries all seemed to have some comment from someone in the veterinary field where they knew of high school students participating in surgeries, usually with heavy supervision. I guess the rules are not as strict with animal surgeries as they are with human surgeries.

Today’s strip makes the transition back to Milborough and presumably a John and Elly story arc. Elly and John are made aware of April’s job ambitions and just as John did in his monthly letter, he not only doubts April’s abilities to handle the unpleasant side of surgery, but actually mocks her. At least he is consistent with his opinion of April. After criticizing April’s desire to participate in music, and April’s desire to do veterinary work, it makes his comments about April being his best friend in the monthly letters take on an even creepier tone. It’s like he doesn’t want April to succeed, so she won’t leave him.

If you take this and John’s speeding in the new Crevasse to impress the young men of Milborough, it is difficult to get around the idea that he is being intentionally made to look not only bad, but more than a little creepy. It happened with Elizabeth also, with Gary and Vivian Crane being openly critical of Elizabeth in Mtigwaki. I have been so used to all Pattersons being praised all the time, it is a little jarring to see Pattersons portrayed as the selfish people they had previously been portrayed as only through poor story-telling. I guess it is more realistic, but it may take a little getting used to.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Career Selection Strip, Part III

Today in For Better or For Worse, we saw April in her first animal surgery, and in tomorrow’s strip, the aftermath which pretty much casts the die of April Patterson for becoming a veterinarian. The only thing remaining to fulfill my prediction of April moving to Winnipeg next summer is some kind of statement about how it would be nice to live in Winnipeg, where she could participate in animal surgeries all the time, while still attending high school. It will be a crucial moment for me. Hang on to your hats.

Lynn also continues to establish her theme of “awesome jobs”. It would be really nice if a Patterson could look at some aspect of their career as drudge work. All this career-worshipping is bringing me down. Why don’t I worship my job like a Patterson does? Why don’t I find organizing supplies “super interesting”? Have I lost touch with the true joys of my profession? If only I were like April, the world would be a much better place. Thank you Lynn Johnston, for giving us such a model of wholesome goodness.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Unexpected Racism

Sometimes when I look over the For Better or For Worse strip the night before aprilp_katje rises and writes her daily snark on the subject through the eyes of April Patterson, I can pretty easily predict what kinds of things she is going to say. Today was not like that. The final pun of the day was on the word "spayed" because it sounds like the word "spade" and in reference to the famous phrase "call a spade a spade." aprilp_katje made a remark that "spade" was a slightly racist term. This caused me to go into a torrent of research on the phrase. I was quite surprised to uncover that many websites were devoted to the analysis of old phrases and their origins also expressed a similar concern that the phrase had come from a racist background.

I was brought up in the deep South and I vividly remember extremely racist comments being made about African-Americans by kids my same age. They almost always used the "N" word. I never remember the use of the word "spade" and it wasn't until I was quite a bit older before I became accustomed to the more colourful and historical racial slurs. In those days of my youth, if I referred to a spade, I referred to a spade as the digging instrument. It was not until this very day I even considered the possibility of treating the term differently.

Quite pleasantly, every single one of those websites discussing the original of the phrase traced it to the Ancient Greek texts and the mistranslation of them that resulted in the phrase used in today's closing pun. The origin of the phrase as racist was univerally (at least within my universe of research) denied. I have used the phrase "call a spade a spade" occasionally, and I would hate to think I was using a phrase of racist origins. Now I can consider the use of the phrase as a tribute to Ancient Greek civilization.

I was also reminded of a bit in the movie Clerks II in which the lead, extremely unpolitically correct white male character went on a tirade to "reclaim" the phrase "porch monkey" as a kind nickname for young people instead of being a racial slur. At least with "porch monkey", there is no ambiguity.

As for Lynn Johnston and her point of view on race. Obviously, she goes out of her way to depict a racially diverse set of friends for Mike, Liz and April to signify they are not racist. She also shows a racially diverse set of Milborough residents. I will have to congratulate her for doing that. Sometimes we chastise Lynn Johnston for allowing her Patterson characters to come off as superiour or worshipped by people from different races, or having disabilities. I don't think is it a fair evalution. The Patterson characters act like they are superiour or worshipped by virtually everyone else in the strip. It doesn't have anything to do with race. But hard race issues, Lynn does not address. Duncan Anderson is going to be with Eva Abuya. Paul Wright is going to be with Susan Dokis. When Gary Crane asked Liz straight out about problems she might have from dating Paul, she completely sidestepped the question and went onto some bizarre diatribe based on a pun on the word "race" meaning different races of people vs. "race" meaning an actual footrace.

Tomorrow's strip: For this strip, I have to research canine spay procedures. Sheesh! I think Lynn must have some reference pictures for the operation, while failing to realize the people standing in the background may not appear in the picture. For example, the anaesthetist would be in the background. I couldn't find one website listing spay procedures which did not mention having an anaesthetist there during the procedure. This veterinarian may be pure "backwoods" vet, since he is using a first hear veterinary student as an assistant, and also 15-year-old April. I wonder if this is some kind of subtle slam on Winnipeg.

Career Selection Strip Part 1

In today’s For Better or For Worse, April Patterson considers her career as a vet, while the April clone continues to do farm work. I suppose the question of how April can work the farm and work the vet clinic is not going to be addressed by anything more than her awful hand pun from last week. On the plus side, April finds organizing supplies super interesting, which most people would not. On the minus side, April finds there is another animal she can’t handle in the rooster and she is intimidated by large syringes. That’s 1 For and 2 Against. In tomorrow’s strip, April learns that veterinarians, or at least veterinarians related to her father make terrible puns on the job. So that’s 2 For and 2 Against. I’m sure any job where punning is allowed has to appeal to April.

As for my posts of the day, Jeremy Jones is diving off into the land of the absurd. One of the characters visiting Eva’s parents makes a reference to Steve Trevor, which long time Wonder Woman fans would recognize as her long-suffering boyfriend. There’s only about 1 year left in the strip, and I seriously doubt Eva’s background will be touched anywhere outside the monthly letters, so I thought it would be amusing to add something a little unusual to that story.

As a word of explanation, the whole goat-headed monster story from Sunday was set up to imply Duncan made up a story to get himself back to Milborough and insult Auntie Perdita and goat baby, and the twist was that he really didn't. There actually was a goat-headed monster.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Back From the Scouts

I and my boy got back from the Boy Scout planning weekend. The campsite was right next to someone’s ranch, because we heard cows from time to time and we went on a hike where we passed a number of fixed bulls (geldings?). I thought of April’s Real Blog for this week, when I heard the cows.

With a speeding theme in For Better or For Worse, Constable Paul Wright was a natural choice to pick up the action, particularly considering his transfer to Toronto will put him right into the detachment that handles traffic violations in the Ontario Provincial Police.

Tomorrow’s strip: It appears April can handle working 2 places at the time and she makes her first appearance at the vet clinic. It will be interesting to see what they do with her here. My guess is that she will put down roots deep enough so that she can come for a more permanent visit next year.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Weighty Humour

In today’s For Better or For Worse, the strip has progressed in somewhat the same fashion as it did for last year’s visit to Winnipeg. We meet Auntie Bev and then after a little indication that April is not a farm girl, we bring in Cousin Laura, who, last year, had the position of being April’s confidante. The point of the strip today was to show that Laura has embraced veterinary work, and the easiest way to show that is to show Laura helping to deliver a calf. It is difficult to do something like that and make it funny, and I would like to say that after 27 years in the comic strip business, Lynn succeeded where others would have failed, but that is not the case. A hopelessly unfunny joke. I spent the first part of the day snarking the “heavy” joke and making fun of Lynn’s apparent lack of veterinary knowledge and I was prepared to let it slide to the evening, as I usually do, waiting for aprilp_katje to get off work.

Today however, qnjones and eeknight jumped into the fray before then, and set me off on a road of Michael snark in reaction. aprilp_katje joined in and I wrote even more Michael snark. It felt a little bit like the older Pattersons are taking over April's Real Blog. Why don’t you wait over here for awhile, April? The stuff was very funny and the day was quite enjoyable for me.

Tomorrow evening, it’s time for the Boy Scout annual planning meeting, a first for me and my boy. The Boy Scouts go camping and as part of the camping, they are supposed to plan out their whole schedule for the entire year. I will be gone from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. I will look forward to reading all the funny stuff on April’s Real Blog when I get back. I’ll think of you as I am sitting in my tent, being rained on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Treats in Your Pants

The April abuse continued today in For Better or For Worse with April trying her best to get an amused reaction by physically overreacting to Tawny lifting her up by her pants. I know my reaction if someone grabbed me by my seat, is to grab my pants and to make sure they don’t come off. But April is of a different sort. Her gesture is to go completely wide-armed and wide-legged. Snarkwise, there was not a lot to work with. My favourite snark of the day was when I had Constable Paul Wright remark about Susan Dokis looking for treats in his pants. I amused myself just typing that.

Coming up in the future, since Liz traveled to see Paul’s family (according to her monthly letter) for Civic Day weekend, my guess is that Paul and Liz will be traveling over Labour Day too. I think that every 3-day weekend will be considered a day for them to visit, despite the fact, which I have snarked many times now, that police rarely get those days off. Since this is the time by which Liz will also have finally gotten around to telling about her new job in Markham.

Liz's Letter, May 2006

…and through one of my profs at university, I have a lead on a job in Markham.

Since Liz never really works to get a job, the more we snark this, the more I am sure that this university prof is going to hand Liz this job as this letter predicted. I think the fact that none of the letters since then mentioned Markham, it is throwing me off. But, no other solution has been presenting itself, so this seems likely.

Tomorrow’s strip: Laura appears and shockingly has changed her hairstyle! How will we know who she is? Judging from the way Laura is being separated from April, it makes me wonder if we are going to see April experience the real veterinary life or not. However it is nice to know that the Lynnions apparently know little about real veterinary life, so we are probably better off anyway. Just to let you know, real vets usually deal with the other end of the cow than its head, when the cow is giving birth.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Great Escape

Today continued the saga of April, she whom the horse taunts and another bizarre onomatopoeia, this time the sound effect for the horse heat-butting April, so she could escape. BUNT was an odd term, presumably used because Lynn didn’t want to say BUTT. So I snarked it with Gordie Duroccher using the same onomatopoeia to correctly represent a skateboarding term, and then the long Howard post where he used it for the baseball/softball term, a mispronounced word “blunt” and a sly reference by Marjee Mahaha saying for Howard to play with her “bunt” which could mean a whole host of things, and is better left undefined.

Tomorrow’s strip: I think we are to get the impression that Tawny the horse has spent the last 2 days playing around with April, as a sign of affection and this continues with yet another humiliation. I have been around horses who nibble at pockets looking for expected treats, but Tawny takes it one step further and actually lifts April off the ground by her shorts. I suppose Tawny’s next plan is to shake April until the treat falls loose of her body. It’s pretty obvious this week is going to be spent with April re-bonding with her horse from last year, Tawny. I don’t see how a visit to the vet center with Cousin Laura to see a surgery could fit into the slapstick tone of this week’s sequence.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Prankster

I read through all the commentaries of which I know on For Better or For Worse and not one of them had an explanation that could believably tie having an iPod in your ear to tripping and falling. aprilp_katje had an inspiration of saying that the “Trip!” word balloon came from a prankster and the rest of the day was spent snarking the strip via the prankster, people tripping, or people making assumptions about hearing. qnjones launched into a storyline for Becky McGuire, involving how shallow the boytoys were around her compared to a new character she invented, who is blind and apparently nice and not interested in pop music. Character-wise this works out very nicely. I have seen many celebrities say they would prefer to have a spouse or a significant other, who did not work in their industry. So, in order to help qnjones along, I took advantage of a her story of Becky falling into dog poop and her subsequent firing of her shortest boytoy, to allow Becky to confront her most recent paramour, Gerald’s brother, and move onto her new love interest for Becky. As I hoped she would, qnjones picked up on this without my saying a word, and did just that.

The only other side story was Jeremy Jones getting his hair coloured to match that of Bulldoggin' Bill Pickett, as recommended by Eva Abuya. Bill Pickett was a real guy. The first black to be admitted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame, even though he was actually ½ black, ¼ white and ¼ Cherokee. When I read about his family history, I thought Eva, with her interest in cowboys and her biracial background would find Bulldoggin' Bill, particularly appealing. Just to let you know, Bulldoggin’ Bill invented bulldogging, which for him was to bite the lip of the bull. They have pictures on-line of him doing it.

Tomorrow’s strip: Last year, when April was at the farm, she showed her city girl side by asking if Auntie Bev had video games, but by the end of the time at the farm, she was riding horses, making puns about prairies, people said she was a great guitarist, and she was the “horse whisperer.” This year, Lynn is really backing off that conclusion. This is 2 strips in a row of stupid city girl April. Unless there is a reversal pretty soon, I am beginning to believe that Lynn really intends for April to be considered an incompetent foob around horses. Although I have a little difficulty believing Lynn would undermine her character’s credibility, in order to make a few jokes. I expect a reversal of this trend soon.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Edgar Sleeps With a Sprinkler

The first question that occurred to me as I read today’s For Better or For Worse strip was: “Who has a dog?” qnjones as Becky McGuire has written extensive adventures about her 3 guard dogs, so that was an easy one. I was delighted to find that aprilp_katje as Marjee Mahaha agreed with that choice. So, I coupled my Howard story about Freyfaxi the dog and the sprinkler with hers. Then Constable Paul Wright used a reference to the Mtigwaki strips, which always seemed to have free-roaming dogs in the backgrounds, every time the strip went to outside Mtigwaki. The other thing I was looking for was some news event in Northwest Ontario, which would have drawn Constable Paul Wright’s attention. It always bothered me that Liz in Mtigwaki would have every weekend free, which were the times where Paul might be working some event as security, and she never went to him. He always had to come to her. The town of Nipigon is close to where Mtigwaki was supposed to be, and it has a fishing tournament, so thought that would be a good choice. I expect Chipper and Suds may do a few things outside of Mtigwaki to explore the possibilities of snarking the eternally homebound Liz.

Tomorrow’s strip: April listens to her tunes, so she falls in poop, and is taunted by Mr. Ed. It doesn’t make sense, so I am thinking of snarking it on that basis, unless I read a commentary where someone explains it satisfactorily to me how having your ears covered causes you to trip. “Who has a horse?”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

When the Creature’s Away

Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse received about as much praise as I have seen from the FOOBiverse’s Journalers as I have seen come out of that group in a long time. A little while back I wrote about how the strip had gotten away from showing physical affection between the characters and this caused the characters to seem less appealing to the readers. So, I was quite satisfied to read the FOOBiverse’s Journal comments as a validation of that particular hypothesis. If any Lynnions read my column, I give you a big thank you and I hope you will have learned your lesson. If John and Elly act like they love each other, no matter how poorly drawn it is, the readers will start to like them again.

On the other hand, the love dialogue was stilted as usual, and provided yet another strong arena for snarking, as each character could use the strip as a basis for their own loving or for observing their parent’s loving. Shannon Lake today threw up because she had too much popcorn, which is from an incident taken from one of my children recently. A lot of times my boy complains about the slightest ache and pain, and says, “Ow” when he is touched slightly or even thinks he is going to be touched. So, during a family picture-taking session, which occurred after going to see a movie, where popcorn was eaten, my boy started complaining his stomach hurt. We said, “Stand here for a minute for the picture and then we’ll take you to the bathroom.” Needless to say, we should have gone straight to the bathroom. The second part of the story comes from an old girlfriend of mine, who told me a story about how she went on a date and came back early from feeling sick, and did literally walk in on her mom and dad naked in the living room. The combination of these two stories made up the Shannon Lake story.

Tomorrow’s strip: Sprinkler humour. We haven’t seen sprinkler humour since this strip, and the joke is different from the one back in August, 2003. It is interesting to see a sprinkler be used more than once for a Sunday colour strip. Edgar sleeps for an hour on top of a sprinkler. Maybe someone in one of the commentaries will tell a story about how their dog did that, but all the years we had dogs, this situation never occurred. Our dogs liked running through ponds and streams, but they avoided sprinkler water.

Adjusting To It

Occasionally in For Better or For Worse, the dialogue will be so stilted, it calls out for imitation. So, most of what I did today was take today’s dialogue and imagine how different characters would fill in the same spaces Elly did her outstandingly awful self-speechifying way. Aside from that qnjones as Becky dropped a line about how lucky she was to have Howard, and so I decided it would be fun to press that point with Becky and her relationship with her 2 not named boyfriends (afternoon and evening).

Tomorrow’s strip shows that we are in the midst of filler strips or coffee table, marketable strips. My hope is that on Monday we will be back to a storyline, hopefully visiting April, so aprilp_katje no longer has to live in fear of a colliding storyline between the strip and what she would write about April in Winnipeg. It certainly would be better than a strip about Elly and John’s love life. For the two of them to flirt with each other is a flashback to old FBoFW. The last time I have found Elly and John being genuinely affectionate to each other was in 2002. Tomorrow’s strip is a stark contrast from today’s strip, because the artist has decided to draw Elly as feminine for a change. I could adjust to that change of Elly’s.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Return of the Vacuum

In For Better or For Worse, it looks like we have resolved the John retirement house in 3 strips and so we are moving to a sequence of refrigerator strips or as I like to call them, strips with panels specifically designed to be on commercially available postcard, posters, and t-shirts. The last panel of today’s strip definitely qualifies in that regard.

Today’s strip was difficult to snark, because the joke about dogs and vacuuming has been done again and again and again in this strip. My characters spoke a little about vacuuming, but with this little from Lynn to drive it, there was not much to base the day on. The bulk of my posting came from Michael Patterson who took April to task for something that is actually Lynn Johnston’s fault—writing in her Real Blog about Elly vacuuming, something a real April would avoid doing like the plague. On these kinds of occasions, I love old Michael, because he can be the perfect foil for aprilp_katje’s April. Every time she turns around to tell Mike to buzz off, he takes that and turns it back on April. I enjoy that interplay particularly when it can be taken to ridiculous levels, like Mike accusing April of being jealous of the dogs for getting a hug from Elly. Aside from that, Howard picked up on qnjones’ story about Becky McQuire having many suitors due to being a Milborough teenage pop star, which is not too farfetched considering the monthly letters said that Becky had a CD which she was pushing on a summer tour. My favourite thing to write was a very meta snark from Shannon Lake through the perspective of her mother, who snarked the repetition of the joke itself, as if Lynn were treating her readers like they were special needs because they couldn’t remember this joke had been done so many times before.

Tomorrow’s strip: This is a dangerous strip to do, because the required repetition of Elly’s face from panel to panel points out clearly how the artist of the strip does not have the ability to draw the proportions of Elly’s face (length and shape of nose, position of eyes relative to the top and bottom of the head, jaw line, etc.) the same from panel to panel in the same strip. However, this will be an easy one to snark.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Well That Was A Waste of Time

Today's strip in For Better or For Worse concluded a 3-strip set of that reminded us John is interested in retiring to a house where he can turn the yard into a model train wonderland. I would been very surprised if Elly accepted any kind of proposition from John, and as it turned out, I was not surprised. So, this set of strips served the purpose of simply letting us see that John has finally told Elly what he would like to do in retirement. It is sort of the same thing John did with April back in February but 2 strips longer. The only majour piece of information passed is that George Stibbs is finally ready to sell. The only thing less informative and more uneventful than that is a vacuuming strip, which Lynn has nicely followed with in tomorrow's strip, I suppose to make us grateful for what we got with George Stibbs.

As it is usually when Lynn Johnston takes a particular story and then just repeats it over and over again, the 3rd day of this sequence proved difficult to snark. Most of the characters, for whom I wrote went on different tangents and only touched lightly on the strip for snark and instead attempted to provoke other person's characters to action to make things more interesting.

Tomorrow is vacuuming and dog holding, two subjects covered many, many times in this strip. In other words, it is practically a filler strip. I sincerely hope that these subjects will not be repeated for the rest of the week. Since we have covered April, Elly, and Liz lately, I believe Mike Patterson is the next for strip attention. I hope he is next.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

John Shows Elly the Future and the Future is Trains

Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse and the whole idea of John wanting to buy a retirement home specifically for the purpose of being able to set up 3 whole lots of yard with train sets is so self-indulgent, I am quite surprised it has gone on for as long as it has. Elly has tolerated the train hobby within limits, but to have a place that is entirely devoted to the subject would not set well with any woman I know. Nevertheless, the way it has been played in the monthly letters and the strip is as if it is a done deal. So, it seems odd that Elly is just now being brought into the idea, when April was introduced to the house back in February. It is also odd, that John waits until the moment April has left town to talk to Elly about this. It makes me wonder what has happened behind the scenes between John and April. There is a temptation to think it is just coincidence, but I do not consider it to be any more of a coincidence than Liz deciding to leave Mtigwaki just after she finds out Anthony is getting a divorce. April knows John’s intent from February, but perhaps she does not know John intends to buy that house this year, and the drastic effect it will have on her.

We know the whole scheme is to get Mike and Liz back into Milborough with Mike in the old house and Liz into Anthony’s house, but I would have thought that very last piece of that scheme was John and Elly moving. So, I am confused that this story is taking place now, before Liz and Anthony have started up again and before Mike has gotten his best-seller that will allow him to purchase the old house from John and Elly. Nevertheless, George Stibbs is presented as ready to sell, so that means this plot must move forward. John is so anxious for the house to be his; I cannot expect that he would let the house go on the market without tendering an offer immediately.

My big snark for the day was Howard hearing a salon story about the demise of George’s wife, whose name I picked to be Georgette. If George shows up and declares his wife to be of a different name, then her middle name is now Georgette. The monthly letters talking about this story went back and forth as to whether or not there was a couple or an old man, and I guess they decided it was the old man. So, I took great delight in presenting the tale as a couple harassed by John Patterson consistently since last September until the lady dies. In truth, if the monthly letters were canon, that is exactly what has happened.

As a word of explanation for the Mike Patterson and his cousin Laura comments, a long time ago, I had Howard present a story in which the youthful summer Mike Patterson was there at the Cruikshank Farm, was his Summer of Love with cousin Laura, who is reasonably close to his age. Coming from the States, cousin marriage is against the law in most of the states and is generally viewed as something only ignorant poor people or British royalty do. However, my understanding is that it is not illegal in Canada, so I can pursue the idea without feeling I have crossed a Canadian moral boundary. Of course, I don’t know how Canadians actually feel about it, even though it is legal.

Snifff. Aaahhhh!

Today’s strip was filled with nonsensical dialogue, much like Saturday’s was. I guess the Lynnions can’t be bothered to read the dialogue to see if makes sense anymore. The way it sounded, it was like April escaped to go to the farm and either April left an odour or John has developed the ability to smell the size of things.

Oddly enough, this was intended to lead into tomorrow’s strip, where John finally shows Elly the retirement house after talking about it in the monthly letters since last June. One thing I did realize in the June, 2005 monthly of John’s, was that John suggests the means by which he can get April out of the house so she will not have to be moved to the retirement house and that is “foreign exchange student.” That seems unlikely for this year, but I suppose it is possible for next year, instead of my idea that April decides to stay in Winnipeg.

I am curious as to how far this strip sequence is going to go. I always thought Elly and John couldn’t move to the retirement house until Mike and Deanna were ready to buy the old house. This means to expect the sequence of Mike best-selling author to go very, very quickly, if Elly acquiesces to John’s request. The more likely choice is for them to discuss it and the subject doesn’t come up again for a few more months.

My dad and step-mom moved into their retirement house a few years ago. My step-mom started getting bad arthritis, so they decided a 2-story house with steep stairs was not the best choice. And boom! In two months they sold their old house, bought a new 1-story house, and moved in. I would be impressed if that happened with John and Elly, and even more impressed if they did it all while April was at the farm. However, I am getting ready for the long wait for someone to take action.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Deanna Discipline

Today we got to see Deanna in the grocery store disciplining her children. If you were in my house, you would have seen me disciplining the home computer, which seemed determined not to let us have internet access. I finally got on, and I was quite excited to see how active qnjones and aprilp_katje were in telling their stories all day. I am quite happy that qnjones decided to ditch the Valhalla. My storylines for that place had pretty much gone as far as I could take them, considering the repetition of doing the same performance over and over again. In real life, I have had few times in my life when I have performed a show or a concert enough times where I didn’t want to do it again. The nature of being a performer is that the work itself is energizing, particularly if you have the privilege of doing well-written work that gets you emotionally and physically involved. But when it comes to snarking a comic strip via a performance device, repetition is not necessarily a good thing. As for the Liz visit to Constable Paul Wright's parents, the home computer really robbed me today, because I was looking forward to doing interactive telling of that story with qnjones.

Tomorrow’s strip: Much to my surprise, I think we are getting ready to pursue the John retirement house story. I guess this is the reason why, after several monthly letters where the writer could not keep straight whether or not John’s dream retirement house was owned by a couple or a man, the last monthly letter from John not only retconned so that either a man or couple would work (the wife died), but also gave the man the name of George Stibbs. I think we are getting ready to meet old George “Dead Before September, 2007” Stibbs this week. I cannot tell you how uninterested I am in this storyline.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

April Gets Elly to Pack for Her

The theme of the day was packing and I had a good time imagining what each character would say about it. Then it was off to a school orientation meeting and going birthday shopping with the kids for their mother, whose birthday is on Tuesday. Back in the house and only aprilp_katje has responded. So, I opted to introduce a storyline relative to the Heritage Festival in Rocky Falls. I don’t believe Rocky Falls is a real place as far as a town goes. aprilp_katje pointed out that there is a falls called Rocky Falls in Elmira, but no town to go with it. susannamoodie mentioned that there are Heritage Festivals all over Ontario and a little searching uncovered that the North Bay Heritage Festival was occurring this weekend, and had to be the inspiration for the April’s August monthly letter to mention it. The North Bay Heritage Festival, from its on-line information, appears to be a pretty big deal. It runs all week, and they have musicians doing concerts every night. So, opted not to do jokes on how small it was (which I think was the intent in the monthly letter), but on the idea that the Corbeil women would come to mock Becky McGuire. The cat departure was intended to be a separate event, since newly adopted kitties often run away; but aprilp_katje’s comment as April was that the two events were related. And so, then I decided they were. I decided to snark on Lynn Johnston’s current naming habits and also make a few jokes on the creative decisions behind the monthly letters, today’s strip, and my 2 majour artistic complaints with the strip (characters don’t look like people, backgrounds don’t match lead characters' sizes).

On the other hand, it was also time to explore the dynamics of the "Liz visiting Paul's parents" idea presented in Elizabeth’s August monthly letter. qnjones set up some marvelous aspects to the idea in her prior posts as Elizabeth, so I worked off those and then developed, what I think would be the majour parts of such a meeting:

1. The parents are going to be irritated Liz blew them off last December. You know they were expecting a visit from Liz then, and Liz neglected to Paul she was not going to do that until they were on the road. So, Paul’s parents would have found it out when Paul showed up at their house and said, “Oh, she’s in that helicopter, riding with her old boyfriend.”
2. Susan Dokis and the powwow trail. To go on the powwow trail implies heavy parental involvement. So, we know Paul’s parents know Susan Dokis and they may even know she is out of university and unattached.
3. Liz’s change in job.
a. Means Paul moves far away from his parents, if his transfer goes through.
b. Paul’s dad is Irish, so the implication is that he chose to live in Northwest Ontario and was not born there. There would be some friction over the fact that Paul is choosing a different lifestyle in order to stay with Liz.
c. The abrupt nature of the change could not have gone unnoticed.
4. Liz’s general withdrawn and uncommunicative demeanor.

I don’t expect this meeting to show up in the strip, so it should be fun to explore it, since we know that Lynn won’t do it.

Tomorrow’s strip: Deanna gets to be the bad parent for a change, which is a nice change of pace.

Friday, August 04, 2006

April and Gerald’s Annual Kiss

I think today was the 3rd time April and Gerald have been shown to kiss in the strip. There was their initial kiss back in 2003, then last year at the grade 8 grad and now today. I am sure if I missed one, aprilp_katje will point it out to me. In any case, compared to Mike and Liz’s teenaged makeout sessions in days past, April is pretty prudish in comparison. Of course, I have my running theory that the creative team switched out back in 2002, and one of the manifestations of this was that the entire cast of For Better or For Worse has become a lot less physically affectionate. Thanks to the Houston Chronicle for keeping an archive that goes back to late 2001. From late 2001 through 2002, I saw Candace and Rudy kissing, Liz and Eric kissing, Mike and Dee kissing, Elly and John kissing, and of course my favourite was Dee and Weed kissing on the occasion of Weed finding them their present place to live. Not only that, but the kisses were not the shy, lips only kisses displayed in today’s strip. They were full-fledged embraces. In 2002, when John kissed Elly, he actually dipped her.

But in the last 3 years, Mike kissed Dee once, John and Elly have not kissed, April and Gerald 3 times, Candace and Rudy have not kissed, Liz and Warren did not kiss, Liz and Paul kissed 2 times (once in flashback, once in shadow). The contrast is startling, and I think demonstrates a majour feature of what has gone wrong in the strip. Characters, who are not affectionate, or even awkwardly affectionate, come off as cold fish and unlikable. When I was in high school, I kissed my girlfriend every chance I got. When I was in my young 20s, I kissed my girlfriend every chance I got. Now, I am an old married geezer, I still try to kiss my wife every chance I get. Of course I wish I got as many chances as I did when I was in my young 20s, but that is beside the point. The point is when I see characters who are afraid to touch each other and show affection to each other, and you couple that with a perspective that often comes across as judgmental and cruel to others; then what you have are a lot of unlikable characters.

As for my ARB characters today, I had Howard and also qnjones' Becky visit the last of the Winnipeg Pattersons they had not met, grandma Carrie. The purpose of the snark was to explain why it is that in the monthly letters and in the strip, the only time the Winnipeg Pattersons are mentioned as having given a gift was when Grandpa Will gave some rocks to Elizabeth for her class, and the last time they came to Milborough was when John Patterson had his 50th birthday party (the one with the flamingos), and why they would voluntarily take on a Patterson kid for almost the whole summer break over and over again. The explanation was an expansion of the comment Grandpa Jim made during his birthday party in April, where he talks about how Elly told him not to spoil his grandkids. I also checked the monthly letters for references to birthday or Christmas gifts that came from any grandparents, and last Christmas, April said she got gift certificates from Jim, Iris, Mike and Dee. I was able to turn that into a group gift, for my purposes, even though it is more likely that Dee picked up all the gift certificates.

At this point, I would be tempted to launch the tour in the direction of Elly’s brother Phil and his wife Georgia, but there is no material to snark on-line, except what I remember about Phil from years ago. Not one monthly letter on-line mentions Phil or Georgia, and the only strip in the last 4 years was a Sunday strip where April shows her bunny to aunt Georgia.

Tomorrow’s strip: If there was ever a strip that showed just how far April is from being a girl who likes dressing fashionably, this is it. My guess is that Monday, we will see April boarding / getting off the plane and we are re-introduced to the Winnipeg Pattersons, where April will make some remark demonstrating she is a city girl. It would follow the pattern of last year, where we see April get to Winnipeg and then ignore her until it is time for her to come back. The coming back week will be April saying things like, “Cousin Laura. I never knew veterinary science could be so wonderful. The way you brought those doggies and kitties back to life from the dead was just amazing.” Laura says, “Will you be back next summer?” April says, “Dead doggies and kitties couldn’t stop me.”

Of course, taking no clothes could be a sign that April is no longer a city girl. After all, country girls just wear the same clothes over and over again. And they walk around barefoot. And they have straw hanging out of their mouths. And they don’t have any teeth.

I don’t have any idea what it means. qnjones has suggested in the FOOBiverse's Journal April is pulling Elly's chain, but if she is, then I do not understand why she is not smiling or sticky-out tongue laughing at her mother's antics. She seems to be more amazed that her mother is reacting the way she is. I am confused.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gerald's Mom Wants Quiet

When my dad was married to his second wife, whom he refers today by the B-word, I had for a brief time 2 step-sisters whose attitude and discipline reflected that of their mother's attention, i.e. they were completely out of control. I discovered very quickly if was to tolerate a visit with them, I would need to do something to get them under control, and my solution was candy, usually a candy that took a long time to eat, like one of those incredibly long straws filled with flavoured sugar. I think Gerald's mom has uncovered that same secret. Having allowed the band to rehearse at her house, an act which, according to the strip and the monthly letters, has occurred on a regular basis for the last 3 years, even though we have only actually seen the band rehearse at the Patterson house; Gerald's mom suddenly realizes the band is loud. I always enjoy it, when a strip goes a good distance from their established history in order to make a joke. Yes, good humour is worth the loss of continuity.

Anyway, the strip afforded Mike Patterson and Shannon Lake, really little material, so I didn't put anything in from them. Since aprilp_katje opted to skip over the psychedelic part of the strip, I had Jeremy Jones put in a dream sequence. Constable Paul Wright mainly remarked on qnjones' Liz comments from the day before. Then qnjones, I presume, launched into cat-related snark from other comic strips, and I added a few of my own, for good measure. The cat snark, allowed me to take Howard and Becky to the Cruikshank farm to finish snarking John and April's farm-related remarks in their monthly letters. And that was about it for the day.

Tomorrow's strip: Gerald and April kiss for the first time this year and for the first time since the grade 8 grad. It would be a more tender farewell, if the two of them had any kind of relationship this year aside that wasn't group dates or having lunch together. As it is, it is a little jarring. As for the Facts of Life, let's remember what they are:

You take the good,
You take the bad,
You take them both and there you have the facts of life.
The facts of life.

There's a time you gotta go and show
You're growin' now,
You know about the facts of life.
The facts of life.

When the world never seems,
To be living up to your dreams.
And suddenly you're finding out,
The facts of life are all about you.
All about you.
A-ll about you.

It takes a lot to get em right,
But you're learnin the facts of life.
Learnin the facts of life.
Learnin the facts of life.
Learnin the facts of li-fe.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cursing is Acceptable, If You Don’t Know What You’re Saying

Today’s strip marked the first appearance of Gerald’s mother, to my knowledge. I suppose it is no surprise, the artist went to the blond girl template list and picked out the Becky McGuire / Meredith Patterson and added glasses. The humour was along the same lines as what occurs almost every time 4 Evah (and Eva) had an original song, which is to say, “The grown-ups don’t like it and that validates the song in the eyes of the teenagers. Elly and John have been poo-pooing April’s original music for as long as she has been playing. So the only real difference here is that we see Gerald’s mom and Gerald’s mom has a foul mouth, but then again, so does almost everyone in 4 Evah and Eva.

Once again, another demonstration that Lynn is completely separated from today’s generation. “The ‘dults are squaresville, man. They are not hip.” In these days, where Mick Jagger still performs at 63 and has been Knighted, it would be difficult to get rock and roll music that would not have some degree of acceptance by a large range of generations. The type of music that would really upset today’s parents with lyrics on abusing women, or glorifying death, or shooting policeman would never make it into the 4 Evah and Eva repertoire. So we resort to loud, a complaint stemming from the 1960s.

In any case, the use of the “@* gave me an excellent means for snarking the whole day long. I also decided that while Becky, Howard, Marjee and Jeremy were in Winnipeg, I would do some Winnipeg Patterson snark, using today’s strip and John’s monthly letters as fuel for the fire. aprilp_katje, I presume, did some writing as Brian Enjo, which allowed me to snark the Enjos, once again by monthly letter. As I pointed out in the post, Elizabeth has not mentioned any Enjo since July, 2005, but July, 2006, Mike mentioned both the Enjo son and daughter. No monthly letter has mentioned the Enjos parents in any of the on-line monthly letters. So, it was a day for obscure snarking.

Tomorrow’s strip is going to put a kink into qnjones’ retcon of Gerald’s mom to be Aunt Lavinia, as the strip takes the joke of her not liking Gerald’s music for another day. 2 days in a row does not bode well. Does this mean “adults hate teen music” for the rest of the week? I hope not.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August Monthly Letters

It’s that time of the month again, where I go through the monthly letters and dissect the part that apply to my chosen characters.

Shannon Lake – zippo, as usual.

Jeremy Jones got a mention in April's Letter, August 2006

Duncan's going away to his cottage for three weeks. Gerald, Eva and I went up there with his parents a couple of weekends ago - it's about an hour north of here, and it's right on a lake. We had a blast. We went swimming and played this game called croquet (even though we don't really know how - we just whacked the ball through the hoop things and tried to hit the post afterward, kind of like an obstacle course). We built a bonfire later on and I played my guitar and we all sang. It was tons of fun. The four of us slept out on the back porch - it was screened so the mosquitoes couldn't get us...we hauled mattresses out there and threw our sleeping bags on top and stayed up most of the night talking. It rocked.

This story surprised me. 2 opposite sex couples are going up to a remote cottage by a lake, with Duncan’s parents to chaperone. They sleep together out on the back porch, and April describes it more like a slumber party. I am not sure what to make of this. A year has passed since the grade 8 grad, and April’s relationship with Gerald is almost completely platonic. Not a single one-on-one date or a kiss all year long. Not one. Then with Duncan and Eva, after an initial Duncan leering and Eva smirking, they show virtually no interest in each other, with no mention of romance even in April’s monthly letters anymore. The whole group has fallen into the same kind of setup April used to have with the 2 boys and Becky McGuire, where they were platonic pals, who hung out together. Maybe when you are 12 that would make sense, but after last year’s grad makeout session and Becky’s roadside business, I thought Lynn had realized April and company were actually at the age where you had to keep an eye out for what they did. My nephew is at that age and he has a girlfriend, and his mom (my sister) watches him like a hawk.

I think it is fairly safe for Jeremy Jones to have a full blown relationship with Eva now. Lynn seems to have no interest whatsoever in Eva being any more than an ethnic Becky replacement, except with less personality. With a little over a year to go to end the strip, I would be surprised if she wasted any more time trying to develop a Duncan / Eva romance.

Oh, and Becky? She's "on the road". She's doing the Heritage Fest in Rocky Falls and a bunch of other summer community gigs. She's got a CD out and she sent me one. It's good. She's doing really well, but I wouldn't want her life. Her dad is her manager (they fight) and Jeremy J. is still doing sound and lighting. She's seriously into this. I keep wondering how she's gonna do in school.

We haven’t let go of the “Becky getting her comeuppance through bad grades” story yet. The additional detail is that she fights with her dad. Given what susannamoodie told me about Heritage Fests and the fact I cannot find Rocky Falls anywhere in Ontario, I suspect that the letter is supposed to indicate that Becky’s musical performances are small potatoes, particularly with the quoted "on the road." I was however, quite excited to see the tour storyline picked up in the monthly letters, even if it wasn’t on as grand a scale. The only reason I did the tour was to give me and qnjones excuses for not posting when we were on vacation this summer. It has also had the added benefit of getting Becky out of her Valhalla trap that was sapping the Becky snark out of qnjones.

Jeremy Jones has moved from being a roadie, to doing sound, to doing lights as well. Normally I would expect a Jeremy / Becky romance to be shown as an indication that the 2 villains have linked up, but I think Jeremy is mentioned here, only to let you know that when his character is going to be revisited or mentioned, it will be in the context of Becky. I don’t really expect any Jeremy Jones character development over the next year. I expect one to two more appearances before the strip ends.

Constable Paul Wright – He got mentioned in two letters.

Elly's Letter, August 2006

Speaking of my adult children, Elizabeth is settled in to her new routine although she's still rather melancholy. It's understandable - after having met Paul, I can see why she's so crazy for him. He's a very handsome young man, and they seem to have a real connection. She clearly misses him - she's been greatly preoccupied and is quite absentminded. As far as I know, they keep in touch every day. He seems like a nice person. I'd like to get to know him better (and I guess - so would she!)

This passage is confusing, because Elly was the first to meet Constable Paul Wright. I am not sure why she is pretending she hasn’t met him before. You can see that Elly finds Paul attractive, and nice. She mentions his communication skills in particular, which is funny considering in the same sentence, she snarks Liz’s lack of communication skills. You will notice that one of the words Elly never uses with respect to Anthony is handsome. This seems to be the big discriminator between all of Liz’s other boyfriends and Anthony. He’s ugly. He’s drawn ugly, and everyone knows it. This passage hints though, that Liz does not know Paul well enough and she probably won’t get to know Paul well enough.

As a hint for how to play Paul, I have been pretty much doing that one. I have Paul talk to Liz every day and report his perspective on what he views Liz to have said about the daily strip activities. I try to contrast this with qnjones’ own Liz perspective, hopefully to humourous effect.

Elizabeth seemed rattled by her encounter with Anthony at Gord's car dealership. He's a nice man, and he obviously still carries a torch for her. I'm interested to see if he contacts her, although I doubt she'll tell me if he does. Whatever happens, they'll always be great friends, and we're all so proud of the way he's handled his divorce and single parenthood. He confides in John, which is good. John has always had a real personal interest in both Anthony and Gordon - and our investment in both of them has been such a good one!

Elly’s remarks about Anthony are pretty much like a mother would make about her son. If you are to compare and contract the Paul paragraph with the Anthony one, you will note that although there is a slam on Liz’s communication skills in both paragraphs, Anthony’s communication with the family is beyond reproach. He actually talks to John, and when you get right down to it, nobody else in the strip does that. Maybe April. There is also a hint that Anthony will be the one to initiate the dating relationship with Liz again. The way this one is played is different from the strip, where Elly is practically falling all over herself in favour of Anthony and Elizabeth goes out of her way not to mention Paul’s existence to Anthony. If I read the intent in this monthly letter, Anthony is to make the first move. However, given the way Paul is portrayed, it would be completely inappropriate for Anthony to make that first move until the relationship with Paul has been shaken. As has been done in these situations before, Elly is the one who broaches the Anthony topic, leaving Elizabeth’s opinion an enigma, as usual.

Now onto the nitty gritty with Liz's Letter, August 2006

Hi gang...I'm getting ready to go up North for the August long weekend - I haven't seen Paul in more than a month and I'll be making the drive to White River to stay with him for a few days. I'm leaving on Friday afternoon right after class, and I'll arrive Saturday morning. I won't get much sleep, but it'll be worth it. I can't wait to see him again! I hope his transfer comes through and we can be closer.

Given the way the rest of this week’s strips are going, i.e. the big farewell for April to go to the farm, I seriously doubt we will see Liz meet Paul’s family at White River this weekend. I would think the Liz / Paul parent meet would be strip-worthy. I know I would love to see Liz meet and greet with an Irishman, and Ojibway mother, and the smooth wisdom-talking mishomis. However, I suspect what has really happened is that the person writing this letter has gotten confused about where Paul Wright lives. Let me lay it out for you. According to, Armstrong, a city approximately in the same location as mythical Mtigwaki is about a 20-hour drive from Toronto. According to last month’s Mike letter, Paul lives about 17 hours from Toronto. The website description and the strip, indicate that Paul lives in Otter County. The strip said Paul’s parents are in White River, which is the only real place of the bunch and says it is an 11-hour drive from Toronto. But….this letter does not say one word about visiting Paul’s family, only Paul. So, maybe the letter writer is confused about where Paul lives. If Liz left at about 4 pm on Friday then 17 hours later she would get there about 9 am on Saturday, so the number fit pretty well with the monthly letter, as if it were a Paul visit only.

Mtigwaki – 3 hours – Otter County – 6 hours – White River – 11 hours - Toronto

I'm leaving Shiimsa with one of the other girls on my floor - we have a common kitchen, and Shiimsa loves her because she cooks a lot of bacon and always shares with the cat. So I don't have to worry about leaving her alone and having her destroy my few possessions while I'm away. I still feel like I'm a transient - I won't be in this apartment for very long, so the vast majority of my stuff is stored in my parents' basement. This apartment was furnished, so all I had to bring along was my clothes, my computer, my teaching materials and whatever else I couldn't live without for a few months, which isn't much. (Well, it is hard to live without Paul. Really hard.)

My snark in the FOOBiverse’s Journal was that Liz never lived with Paul, just Eric. However, what she is really trying to say is that she equates Paul with things she can’t live without. Actually he is one step below in the “hard to live without” category.

Once my summer classes are done, I'm going to need to find full-time work. Having no contract lined up is making me very, very nervous - but I'm confident I'll find something. At this point, it's convenient to have no roots. I have a radius of several hundred kilometers to search, and I wouldn't mind living anywhere in this area so long as I was able to get out to visit Milborough fairly often. Being a couple of hours closer to Paul's place would be handy as well. I'm putting in applications everywhere, leaning on every friend and contact - and checking the Internet constantly for news and notices. My friends here tell me that hiring often happens quite suddenly towards the end of August, so I'm keeping everything crossed but my eyes!

This passage was very interesting and may be providing the reason why the idea of Markham being Liz’s permanent job site has not been mentioned again. Markham is moving the wrong direction with respect to Paul. So, maybe Lynn has changed the permanent job location to someplace a little more westerly than Mississauga, in order to try to convince us faithful readers that she is at least making an attempt to keep her relationship with Paul. Fortunately, we will find out next month, so Lynn can’t drag this one out for too long.

Overall, there is not much to add. I will write the Liz / Paul visit this weekend. Liz will arrive on Saturday morning, and she will have to leave no later than Monday morning to make it back in time for school on Tuesday. And I will add the Heritage Fest to Becky’s tour itinerary. That's all folks!

Liz has a Brand New Ride

I got to amused again with April letting Liz know how out of touch she is with her family and her in particular. But my main effort of the day had to do with a plot I formed in my head involving lumberjacks. I was delighted to find the Saskatoon 2006 Exhibit included lumberjacks, because I have always loved the Monty Python lumberjack song. I decided to add references to the Spam sketch, because it included, among other things, Vikings and singing Vikings at that. It was too irresistible with all the Viking stuff qnjones has associated with her character of Thorvald McGuire.

The other idea that occurred to me was that I could tell the story in reverse chronological order by having Howard tell the second half first and then follow it with Jeremy Jones telling the first half second, and that would explain how the situation in the second half got set up. I was quite delighted by the idea. I decided to also focus on axe-throwing, which is a repeat of an idea I had previously used, but when I was at the Boy Scout camp, they had axe-throwing, so I was inspired to bring it up again. Throwing axes, by the way, are quite a bit lighter than axes used for chopping, so it is from this I got my inspiration to make Brynja, the lesbian Viking consort have a nice, small set of pink, throwing axes.

As for tomorrow's strip, Liz is surprisingly cruel to April. I expect my characters will take her to task for it.