Saturday, September 30, 2006

Repeat 3 Times

In today's For Better or For Worse, I found it interesting that Elly was so insistent on Iris leaving the hospital. I remember when my boy was born and he went into ICU for 2 days, I stayed overnight at the hospital, actually sleeping underneath 2 chairs to provide me protection from being stepped on by the visiting nurses who were in and out of my wife's room all night long. That was our first born naturally. With our second child, my responsibility was toward taking care of the first born, while my wife had to handle the post-birth details by herself overnight. Normally, Lynn does not put Elly into an unsympathetic position, but this time she did, and it did make Iris' desire to stay more poignant, and oddly enough, made Elly seem a little uncaring for her father. After all, she's retired and it's not like April or Elizabeth actually need care. They both could have stayed, I think. That's neither here not there.

Today in my personal life, my boy learned how to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time as a part of a Boy Scout activity. Much to my surprise, I discovered that in one of the worst parts of town is homed an archery range with an instructor who has had 4 national champions in his tutelage. He was very good, and in the course of 1.5 hours, my boy, who has never lifted a bow and arrow in his entire life, was firing arrows down the range and hitting his target.

Then after that we went to a children's play called For the Love of 3 Oranges which is hosted by the University of Arizona Theatre Department as a part of their curriculum to train their grads with the intent of going into school drama education in doing theatre for small ones. My children complained every inch of the way down to the theatre, but fortunately enjoyed the show. It's a part of my "You will be exposed to different things if it kills me" attitude.

After all this was done, I finally got to settle into writing a Howard post snarking the John Patterson letter. I actually put this one together Lynn Johnston-style, where I started with the joke "gym" sounds like "Jim" and duplicating, to a certain degree, the language from today's strip. Then I worked backwards on how to get my character into the gym and talking to John Patterson. The John Patterson letter was so iminently snarkable, I could barely resist.

Let's see the inside joke about Everett Callahan and his fiancee and the short hair has to do with Everett being gay and preferring women with the more manly short hair. That has to do with an April's Real Blog storyline months ago about how Howard and Everett had a relationships, only Everett went off with Jennifer, Dr. Patterson's dental assistant. I should mention I got to see a little CBC documentary of Lynn Johnston back in the day when For Better or For Worse was still a new enterprise and she was not living in Corbeil. The documentary maker make a point of noticing that Dr. Rod Johnston's dental assistant was very attractive, but Rod was not distracted, or something like that. My thoughts immediately went to the infrequently seen Jennifer.

As for the railroad references, I was unable to determine an exact time when handcars went out of common use for railroad repair. They may never have, because many places still give handcar rides as a part of Railway Days Festivals. The other vehicles represented are quite old and I was unable to find their use relative to Canadian Railways, but let's just say that they were long gone in use in the States, by 1944.

Tomorrow's strip: I think back to the times when I or my children got our hands caught in doors, to see if I remember a delayed reaction like Merrie demonstrates. And guess what? Never, ever. Not even once. My wife slammed my hand in her car door pretty recently, and I can assure you I screamed immediately.

October Monthly Letters

The October Monthly Letters were an odd bag this time, because it seemed like the main point was that the Pattersons were pulling together to help each other in their time of need, but they had been such self-centered and unconnected characters for so long, they really do not have the first idea how to do it. So, you get these odd things like Liz contributing to the cause by writing or taking a bubble bath and Mike and John doing all these bathroom renovations for Iris and Jim, which should be a big no-no considering they live in an apartment, and so on.

To evaluate the letters with respect to my characters:

Liz's Letter, October 2006

What I need to do is pull my head out of my rear end and stop feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I'm living at home again. Yes, my mother is menopausal and my sister is pubescent and the hormonal effects are a little startling. Yes, I've been subpoenaed to testify in a sexual assault trial as a complainant. Yes, it seems that my former boyfriend from high school may possibly be carrying a torch. Yes, my current love is several hours away and I don't get to spend nearly enough time with him. Yes, my cat is currently irritable and avoiding me because of all the noise and chaos in the house. All this seems relatively manageable if it weren't for the fact that my grandfather is in the hospital.

I have a lot of good things going on in my life. I need to bear in mind that April and I are getting closer, I have a fair amount of independence, I have a full-time job (that I love), I have a car, my finances are under control, I'm surrounded by people who care about me, I have pets in abundance, I don't have to cook for myself at this point, Paul and I love each other, Howard's being brought to justice (hopefully!), and things seem far better if I keep them in perspective.

Howard Bunt: Nothing really new here. Liz talks about the subpoena and she lists as a good thing that Howard is being brought to justice, but expresses some uncertainty. It makes me wonder if Howard is actually going to do jail time, or such a short period of time, that Lynn will make some point about the injustice of the justice system. I am not sure. Lynn has usually portrayed the police with excellent terms.

Constable Paul Wright: She says they love each other and she recognizes that Anthony is carrying a torch. The interesting phrase, that qnjones picked up on was “my current love.” It is oddly phrased and of course, just adds fuel to the fire about the anti-Paul bias of the strip and the letters. Other than that, there is no real information except to remind us that they are separated in space. Surprisingly, there is not description of their visit with each other last Sunday, which I guess means there really is a Sundayverse.

Jeremy Jones: Not mentioned at all, and it is really strange he doesn’t get a mention this time, because April goes into long details about the makeup of Becky’s band. I get the impression that Becky has reached a level where Jeremy’s services are no longer considered to be professional enough. Indirectly, Jeremy is affected by the Eva and Duncan love connection. This monthly letter is worded pretty clearly that Eva and Duncan are together. susannamoodie as Zandra Larson and the_berserker as Duncan can maintain their love storyline if they want, but as far as I am concerned, Jeremy and Eva are dunzo.

Tomorrow’s strip: Elly Patterson has a heart of stone. Let Iris grieve, you heartless old biddy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Consistency is the Key

Today on For Better or For Worse, John and April are brought in the Grandpa Jim stroke picture. Still no Phil and Georgia, yet I have have hope. The interesting part is that the characters of April and John, as much as we snark the way they act, reacted in just the way I would have expected. April was dumb as a brick and asked all the exposition and explanatory questions. John stood in the background and did not do a thing. He didn’t even have the energy to think something. If April and John had reacted any differently, I would have felt cheated. I am not so sure Lynn is not snarking her own characters, but if she is not, then she has written herself into a corner, where in order to portray them consistently, they must be unpleasant and stupid.

In tomorrow’s strip, Mike and Deanna find out and once again, Mike is portrayed as the negligent, self-absorbed father who upon learning his grandfather had a stroke, is more concerned that his problems are no longer important in comparison, than the fact his grandfather had a stroke. He’s a jerk, but he is consistent. Lynn does not ever let have a break from being self-righteous prig.

The missing character is Liz, and considering she lives with John and April, who are there, and the story is set in the night, when she shouldn’t be working, it obviously raises the question of where she is. I had Constable Wright, hint that she was with Anthony, but eeknight as Anthony just flat out said that’s where she is. If she shows up at hospital with Anthony, that would kill. I hope that’s the way it goes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Grandpa Jim Has a Stroke Part II

Today’s For Better or For Worse was trying pretty hard to portray Elly as competent and Iris as emotional and helpless. But there were cracks showing in the presentation, as Elly showed that Lynn has obviously never called 911 before, and Iris showed that Lynn doesn’t seem to know about the services of assisted living to help deal with these kinds of things. We’ve seen on the website that Lynn sits on her chesterfield and writes these things up, and obviously writes them up without researching them.

I experience certain aspects of this too in my own writing. For example, I like to include the Ojibway words in the Constable Paul Wright writing, but I have not bothered to learn proper verb form in Ojibway, so I know I get some things wrong, but I am too lazy to take the time to learn it. I don’t expect anyone to catch these things, unless they are familiar with Ojibway. The problem with Lynn doing the same thing, is that it is so easy to research things with the internet, to write a story about a character having a stroke and not taking the time to find out what the symptoms are, smacks of the “I can’t be bothered” style of writing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Grandpa Jim Has a Stroke Part I

Today on For Better or For Worse was very difficult to snark. Left on a cliffhanger like it was, you don’t know if grandpa Jim is dead or not, so you can’t take it any too far, without making your character seem inhuman and uncaring. I suspected that Grandpa Jim was not dead, really for no other reason than it would not give Lynn the opportunity to give Jim a grand exit as she did for Marian years ago, where Marian met with everyone and gave out kind words and doled out generous old woman wisdom left and right. Jim has to have his chance to dole it out also. Plus, we have to get Phil and Georgia back for an appearance, and it wouldn’t do if the occasion was Jim’s funeral.

The only thing I really snarked was Elizabeth not visiting grandpa Jim in the last 3 months, since it was one of the things she said in the monthly letters she wanted to do in the South. A little research uncovered that Elizabeth has not been to his apartment in any of the archive strips. By the way, the Shaking Tent ceremony, I described is once again, an actual Ojibway tradition for dealing with sicknesses that are believed to come from unnatural causes and not natural ones.

With tomorrow’s strip we have Elly announcing it is a stroke. We know that it will be because Elly is always right. There are a number of other problems which can cause unconsciousness, so it doesn’t have to be a stroke, but it will be. The only question now is how long with Lynn write the recovery time taking? Judging from Elly’s menopause, I would say forever.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do Not Ask for Whom the Elly Toils

Today in For Better or For Worse, Anne Nichols was reintroduced. I suspect we are going to see a lot of old characters returning in the final year. Tomorrow’s strip was the real surprise, with the suddenly sickly Grandpa Jim and panicky Iris. underpantz picked a great time to join April’s Real Blog and take on Iris Richards.

I knew an elderly couple where the woman had a stroke and her husband became so panicked, he did nothing to help. Later, the woman’s daughter came to visit and found her mother on the floor unconscious with her father beside her, still not knowing what to do. I also remember my 90-year-old grandfather who was in a bathtub and accidentally turned the hot water on too hot, and burned himself pretty badly, because he panicked and it took him a long time to regain his composure long enough to turn the water off. So, the idea that Iris would not call 911 and waited for Elly is not unrealistic to me. At 85 years old, grandpa Jim is well over the average lifespan for the American male, and so this could be it for him, and I would be so impressed if it was.

However, the idea that Lynn Johnston would have the final situation in the strip with a conscious grandpa Jim be one where Iris stacked too many things on his cart, seems highly unlikely to me. When grandpa Marion went, there was a long lead-in to it, and she got have many final touchy-feely moments. I expect the same for Jim. With any luck, a grandpa Jim funeral, will mean, not only a Phil and Georgia appearance, but Fiona Brass will return too.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Visiting an Old Friend

I went up to Phoenix today to visit with an old high school friend who lives in Hawaii (good guess with Alaska though, aprilp_katje) and comes stateside every 3 years or so. We had a good visit and went to the Desert Botanical Gardens with my son. My wife and daughter were busy at the same time seeing the Cheetah Girls / Hannah Montana concert. If you don’t who they are then you don’t have a pre-teen or tween daughter. Thanks to aprilp_katje for assuming various character forms to tell people where I was, indirectly. It was a lonely day for aprilp_katje, and I wish I had had the time to give Constable Paul Wright’s perspective on matters, but there was not a lot for me to snark, because today’s strip was a pretty good one.

Tomorrow’s strip: Anne Nichols reappears, and I have some potential Howard material there, since I have previously indicated that Howard hates Anne’s food.

Totally Confused

Today was very busy and what few moments I had in between events, I seemed to spend answering comments from an Anonymous poster on the FOOBiverse’s Journal, who referred to me as anal. My niece and nephew have the misfortune to have two uncles named by my real first name. My sister (their mother) refers to the other uncle as the anal uncle and me as the weird uncle to her children, so they can distinguish which one she is talking about. For some reason, I don’t mind being called weird, but being called anal set me off on a tangent.

By the time I got some free time at the end of the day, April’s Real Blog had all the earmarks of an anguished aprilp_katje. So, I popped off a Paris Hilton post, using paraphrases of actual Hilton quotes to achieve a certain degree of Paris authenticity. Then aprilp_katje fed me a Howard story via Marjee Mahaha, for which I hope she liked my ending. By the way, Pachelbel’s Canon in D is popular for weddings, but most people in the classical music biz consider it to be very dull.

Today’s strip was just a rehash of yesterday’s stuff, and as I looked at it, I felt myself losing my desire to snark the “Becky is self-centered” storyline one more time.

Tomorrow’s strip really confuses me. It’s almost like qnjones’ Liz post about Liz and Paul being magically teleported someplace is what happened. To see Liz and Paul with each other, touching like they actually like each other, looking like an actual man and woman, makes me wonder what the Lynnions are thinking. To put a strip in here like this, when we know in almost exactly 3 months, they are going to pull them apart to put Liz with Anthony, is just mean. But mean in a fun way. The people who only read the strips are going to say, “Well. I guess that Michael Patterson was wrong about Paul’s heart straying after all.” Then if it ends up being Anthony, they are going to feel so surprised.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Trouble with the Law

Howard has had his legal problems, and mine are minor in comparison, but in October, when he gets years in prison for grabbing at Elizabeth Patterson, I can tell in advance I am going to be feeling a lot of Howard sympathy.

I spent the day today in Defensive Driving School which was being led by a retired traffic policeman, who was very informative about the life of a traffic policeman during the course of his presentation. He had everyone in the class say out loud what they had been pulled over for, and how they felt about it, and how much they had been charged to attend the Defensive Driving School. I was more than a little surprised when he informed me that the policeman had made an incorrect judgment call about my being pulled over for running a red light, and I should have pleaded not guilty. It was a good exercise in learning that things in one state, which are illegal, are not illegal in another state.

When I lived in Texas, if your car entered an intersection and the light turned red before you exited the intersection, then you were guilty of running a red light. Apparently this is not the case in Arizona, where if you enter on yellow, you can exit on red and not be guilty. But it is a judgment call on the part of the police officer as to whether or not this happened. The choice is then to argue the case, or pay the fine, or if you have no other tickets in the last 2 years, you can attend Defensive Driving School for a significantly reduced fee, which in my case was going from $250 to $125 and you get no points against your license.

What I learned during the course of the day was that traffic policemen in Arizona work on 10-hour shifts and during the course of that 10 hours issue “hundreds” of tickets. Considering it took the police officer almost 15 minutes to write up my paperwork, I doubt the veracity of the “hundreds” claim by the course instructor. Nevertheless a little simple math of say 25 tickets in a day (a more reasonable 2.5 tickets an hour) at $250 a pop tells me that the average traffic policeperson has the potential to produce $6250 of revenue a day for the police department.

As I listened to the people in the class describe their infractions, there were some that were extreme, like driving 100 mph in a 75 mph zone, or running into another vehicle. However, the majority of them were persons who did things like turning a corner and going into the wrong lane, speeding violations of less than 10 mph over the speed limit, or allowing their car to go briefly off the road. These were things that could be attributed to driver error or carelessness. Most drivers experience these moments when they drive. Therefore, as long as people drive, there is an unlimited source of things that can be fined. By placing high fines to enforce correct driving, the traffic police essentially have a guaranteed means by which they can support themselves and possibly the rest of the police department who perform acts from which the police receive no revenue, like investigating crimes. All they have to do is go out and wait for it to happen and it will. Someone will make a mistake and often enough for the police to issue “hundreds” of tickets.

It is like the University of Arizona men’s basketball program which can charge enormous prices for the seats to see their games (because the team is very good every year), so that their revenues can support every athletic program at the University, particularly the ones no one wants to pay money to see. Unlike those unseen athletic programs, there is a definite downside to using the traffic police this way. That is: Fear of the police. When I see a policeperson on the road, my first thought is not “There goes the police, protector of right and wrong, how proud I am of them.” My first thought is “Oh my God. Quick, check the speedometer to make sure I am not speeding and I haven’t left my turn signal on by accident.” I am about as far from a desperate criminal as I can think without going into the ministry, and yet the sight of a police car puts me at fearful caution. There is some inherently wrong with that. Honest people, who try every day to obey the law, should not fear the police. I want the police I can be proud of. I don’t want the police I think are watching my every move waiting for me to make a driving mistake.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Trashing Becky Part II

I was sick as a dog last night. I suspect food poisoning but I do not know for certain. I was not feeling well enough to write anything up for the Howard Bunt Blog. However, judging from the reaction, I suppose nobody noticed.

My surprise in For Better or For Worse this week is that Lynn is not really trying to deliver a comeuppance to Becky, but to allow Becky and April to try to patch things up between them. My second surprise was the vigor at which Eva and Duncan attacked Becky. Where did that come from?

Duncan did not speak poorly of Becky when she left the band, but he does have a history of Becky hate when he passed on the “Roadside and Gig” comments about her last year. This suggests that Duncan has some sort of deep-seated resentment that does not have anything to do with the current state of Becky’s career, which he knows enough about to indicate he has been following it closely. I really wish the_berserker was posting these days to flesh out that perspective on April’s Real Blog.

Eva’s first appearance in the strip was one where she went out of her way to praise April’s secondhand hairclip and shoes from Elizabeth, so we know she is a suck up. I presume then that her Becky hatred is derived from trying to reflect Duncan and April’s opinions as her own to keep in good with them. The other possibility I suppose is that Eva fears a Becky comparison band-wise, since she doesn’t play the keyboard like Becky and is probably not as a good a singer, since we never see Eva’s voice featured during any of the band practices.

Howard’s post about charitable giving was based on the only reference to giving to a charity in the Elly’s monthly letters, where she talks about giving extra books and clothes to the charity.

Constable Paul Wright’s story about Ojibway religion is accurate, but I spared you a long dissertation on how man was created by the goddesses. Incidentally, I did find some websites which referred to current religious practices of the Objibway, and they do light tobacco to the earth mother, just as they did with Elly during the pow-wow last year.

Tomorrow’s strip: More Becky bashing. Will April close out the week neatly by telling Becky she isn’t perfect, but she likes her anyway, or will April tell Becky she is full of number 2 again?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Exploring Eva Part II or Trashing Becky Part I

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Eva sets the stage for the big Becky comeuppance storyline, for which we have been waiting, literally since Becky quit 4-Evah at the grade 8 grad over a year ago. Loyal readers will appreciate that the story is finally going to be concluded, but may not like the way it is headed. I, for one, was certain that what was going to happen was Becky would get caught cheating from the people handing her the school work they had done for her, then in the aftermath, they would be shown not to be Becky’s true friends by deserting her, and then April would show she was really Becky’s true friend, by supporting her in her time of need.

Much to my surprise, the comeuppance appears to be the beginning of a bizarre sequence where April negotiates a comeuppance by refusing help to Becky until she admits what a heel she has been. The people doing the strip have miscalculated by playing Becky as meek and vulnerable in asking for help and taking so long from the offending Becky event in the strip for April to get her revenge. Meek and vulnerable only work, when the reader has a chance to see the character abusing their power and then be taken down as a result. It has been so long since Becky quit 4-Evah, or for that matter insulting April’s previously pimpled state, even a collection of strips will not be able to contain the appropriate strips to carry this story to its finish. The effect is, instead of seeing Becky taken down, the strip is making the lead character into an insufferable ass. This is happening so often now with the lead characters in this strip, we have reached an odd point where the most sympathetic lead character is one who previously held the insufferable ass award, the leering Grandpa Jim. He has had so many abuses heaped on him by Iris for the sake of old person humour, I am beginning to wonder how long it will be before Grandpa Jim ranks as a villain along with Howard Bunt, Becky McGuire and the Kelpfroths.

As for April’s Real Blog today, I took great delight in having Shannon Lake notice that Eva has replaced her in the role of April sympathizer. I am very curious as to whether Lynn will put Shannon in this sequence, since we are having a Becky McGuire smackdown, and by all rights, Shannon should be involved.

Michael Patterson was relegated to the role of pointing out to aprilp_katje that April was acting perfectly normal…for a Patterson, which I also enjoyed, because I get such good reactions out of aprilp_katje when Mike makes April realize her fate is to be an insufferable ass.

Howard Bunt had to finish off the badminton story suggested by aprilp_katje yesterday. I decided to play it as if there were no way Howard could win public approval if he won, lost, or ran away. I think that will be a metaphor for how his trial will go.

With Constable Paul Wright, I had originally considered having both Elizabeth and Susan Dokis make snide remarks about Paul’s interest in the other, using native humour; but I got sidetracked when I realized some of the comments I was writing were accidentally similar to my favourite scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally. So, I just went ahead and adapted that scene to Paul and Liz, except with the genders reverse and “sex” became “having a girlfriend”.

I am beginning to fear that Jeremy Jones is not going to make an appearance, even though Becky is in this story sequence. Jeremy Jones was linked to Becky last year as her sound man, and then from the July monthly letter as her sound and light man on her tour, but in this series of strips involving Becky’s admirer friends, I find it very interesting that Jeremy is not shown to be hanging around Becky. I suspect it is because the impact of Becky ignoring April carries more weight if Becky is not hanging around any known characters.

Tomorrow’s strip: April says to Becky, “Acknowledge my existence.” I note the total number of strips since the grade 8 grad, where April was the one to approach Becky, instead of the other way around. That total number is 0. Sorry, April. You don’t have a foot to stand on. Face facts, the writers of this strip are bound and determined to make us hate you, and they are succeeding, brilliantly.

Exploring Eva Part I

Today’s For Better or For Worse seems to giving the beginning of what are the first strips to show us the Eva / April dynamic at school, since Eva’s original hairclip-loving first appearance. I am not sure what to make of Eva anymore. During the band rehearsals and the beach trip, Eva was completely silent, indicating no personality at all. This is the second time around where she has had a dialogue with April, and the recurring theme is one of hate and April worship. I will run it down:

1. The point of the whole boys / cars / cell phones = cowboys / horses / guns metaphor ended up with Eva making fun of the boys and a mention of wanting to punch someone out.
2. Today’s strip indicates Eva seems to hate her brother, and an over familiarity with April, to the point of suggesting she would move in with April, if her brother moved back.
3. In tomorrow’s strip, Eva attacks Becky McGuire, someone with whom she has no history whatsoever, seemingly for no other reason than because Becky used to be April’s best friend. This makes Eva seem very pitiful.

The other confusing aspect of Eva was this whole subplot of Duncan likes Eva, but Eva doesn’t know if she likes Duncan, which seems to have played out in the monthly letters only. The only hint we have seen of it was Duncan staring at Eva just after she joined the band. In today’s strip, Duncan is mysteriously gone when he was always at lunch with April and Gerald before, and with tomorrow’s strip we can see that Duncan never joined April and Gerald for lunch. Eva has replaced Duncan as the token black April friend.

It is as if, the Lynnions have Eva to replace Becky, but do not know what to do with her. Sometimes I get the feeling they are trying to play Eva as the “sassy black girl”, without having any idea what that kind of character is really like.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

April is not an Animal, She's Really Elly, Jr.

Today in For Better or For Worse, April regressed, as Elizabeth basically gave her “If you do the work, instead of complain about it, then you will be pleased with the results” advice.

On the personal side for me, my girl got her 3rd grade Bible from church today and my boy officially achieved the rank of Tenderfoot Scout in the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately for me, both these events occurred at exactly the same time in completely different locations. It kept me busy most of the day.

When I wasn’t busy, I added in my usual round of characters. The funniest thing of the day in April’s Real Blog was eeknight’s list of potential jobs for fugly April, but the sequence I enjoyed the most was aprilp_katje taking my Mike Patterson suggestion that April’s emotional reaction is her following in Elly’s footsteps (or rather scream-steps), and having a nice, cute, awww moment between April and Elly over the idea.

aprilp_katje’s Eva Abuya and my Jeremy Jones re-established themselves as somewhat together and working on the homework theme of today’s strip, but I have a strong feeling, considering tomorrow’s strip features Eva at school, with Duncan noticeably absent, that Duncan is going to appear and we may have a lovey-dovey scene between the two of them on his entrance. What I am really hoping for is the payoff on the way the monthly letter for April was written, so when Duncan appears, we have a lovey-dovey scene with Duncan and Eva, and then April has a thought balloon wondering why she feels jealous of Eva. That would kill.

I wonder if susannamoodie is interesting in Jeremy Jones and her Zandra Larson dating?

Elizabeth visits Mike Part II

In today’s For Better or For Worse, the seeds were set for Paul’s departure from the life of Elizabeth. The basic elements are:
1. Paul is separated from Liz, like Warren was.
2. Paul has not applied for his transfer, even though he said he has.
3. Paul’s heart is wandering, due to the absence of Liz.

These ideas have been presented before in the strip and in the monthly letters, so it is not really new. The new part of it is was using Michael Patterson, a Patterson who has not met Paul, to put the idea forward. Liz has been making the rounds of exploring her Paul relationship with her relatives and so far, each one has not so subtley indicated a preference for Anthony Caine.

I had Constable Paul Wright comment in April’s Real Blog on the overlap between his relationship with Liz and her consideration of the Warren relationship as being an actual break up. Liz and Warren were not really together in any kind of real sense, but the monthly letters and Liz’s attitude toward Paul (he’s just a friend) did change after December last year to reflect that Liz was just then considering Paul as a boyfriend, even though they had been dating for 2 months.

This is one of those situations where the monthly letters project a story radically different from that of the strip. In the monthly letters, Liz mentions some contacts with Warren over the 1 ½ years since he was last seen in the strip, and also remarks about how she was constantly waiting for him to fly his helicopter into Mtigwaki for a visit. This was not reflected even once in the strip. So, the comment about the breakup would almost make sense, if the monthly letters were being considered. As it is, today’s strip just made it seem like Liz is trying to delude herself, which is really not too bad a way for Liz to be portrayed given the other lines she makes about how she manages to find herself in a long distance relationship she promised she would not have again and yet deliberately put herself in.

As I have stated before, I no longer believe the writers are trying to portray Liz in a positive light, because there is strip after strip where she comes off as a self-interested idiot. And today, much to my surprise, Mike receives similar treatment from the writers.

Tomorrow’s strip:
The first appearance in the Sunday colour strips of Liz living back at home, and she is taking the role of the 3rd parent for April. Just as I feared, April is regressing, in order to make Liz look good. I hope we don’t see too many of these kinds of strips. When April regressed during the zit / rocking strip last year, it was one of the oddest / lowest points in the strips for that year. The lowest of course being the Howard going after strips and their aftermath.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Elizabeth visits Mike Part I

In today’s For Better or For Worse, I had read the strip the night before and prepared what I like to call “pre-snark” which is snark I write the night before I get up the next day and can toss into April’s Real Blog comments before I have to go to work. Since the strip focused on Michael interacting with Liz and I have grown accustomed to writing Michael, I had written something which was so detailed, I opted to pre-post it, which is a practice qnjones does occasionally when Liz is the focus of the strip and it would be difficult for April to know what was going on. I had not done that in a long time, but it seemed appropriate for the situation and might even help out aprilp_katje a little. I don’t know if aprilp_katje really likes those or resents it, but I suppose if she didn’t like it, she could opt not to use it. She is the continuity goddess after all.

I also did the same tonigm for tomorrow’s strip, to complete the set of 2 strips of Liz visiting Mike. Liz is visiting Mike, but what she is really doing is talking about herself almost nonstop. I find it very interesting, she is doing this with Mike, because of all the people in the strip, Mike is probably the character who most consistently puts down Elizabeth. In tomorrow’s strip, this is no exception, as Mike expresses his belief that Liz and Paul’s relationship is dunzo, in his own special way. Mike is now added to the list of Pattersons who don’t think much of Liz’s relationship with Paul. We saw Elly practically pushing Anthony toward Liz at the car dealership, April hinting Anthony is good moral support, and of course John Patterson complimenting Anthony on how he was handling his failed marriage. That leaves us with 2 questions:
1. When will grandpa Jim weigh in on this subject and will he be on a scooter when he does it?
2. What is it about Constable Paul Wright that the Pattersons don’t like?

The obvious question to number #2 is cultural and racial, but that is simply not possible for a Patterson. The comic strip is heading toward a “Go for Anthony, because he’s the childhood sweetheart” reason, but I really wish the Pattersons would address a real reason for rejecting Paul and pushing Anthony, other than that. Paul has been presented as a little too needy, and it would be interesting to see Elly or April pick up on that and talk about it among themselves and to Elizabeth. But I fear I may be asking for a level of sophistication beyond that of our beloved Pattersons. From the clues given, Paul will be rejected because he:

a. Is messing around with Susan Dokis, and
b. Did not actually apply for his transfer, even though he told Elizabeth he would.

These are good reasons for a break-up, but they simply do not mesh with Mr. Wright, the guy who was practically gushing over how much he loved Elizabeth. The Mr. Wright, they presented, would get the transfer and leave Susan Dokis alone. On April’s Real Blog, I have been walking that tightrope with the good constable ever since the end of last May.

Only one other item. I had grown accustomed to getting a FOOB foefiction on a fairly regular basis from ellcee at her St. Eleanor of Milborough site, but ellcee has dropped off the face of the earth and is apparently not responding to e-mails. Tonight, qnjones as Elizabeth dropped a line about how her cat went to hide in the central vac of the house, and my brain started to churn about a foefic I had been thinking about ever since I went back through the old August, 2005 Liz / Howard strips today. Pictorially, it looks like Howard is trying to give Liz a hug, and she beating the stuffing out of his face. It made me wonder, what would have happened between Liz and Howard, if Liz had accepted his invitation of a date and why didn’t she accept his invitation. She had no boyfriend, unless you count Warren, which you really can’t since Liz was already dating Paul for 3 months when she dumped Warren. The big difference is that Howard was cruder and much more aggressive than the other boyfriends. My initial thought was to do a FOOBish parody of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, with Shiimsa playing the part of the Lion, Lynn Johnston as the Witch, and the Central Vac as the Wardrobe. But the more I got into it, the harder a time I was having in tying the ARB characters to all the books’ characters. So I opted for a meet and greet between Howard, Becky and an otherwordly Elizabeth. It was fun to write, and I hope satisfied my foefic needs for awhile.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Liz Loses Her Cat and Her Sanity

Today in For Better or For Worse, they basically repeated the old "Liz can’t handle a cat, isn’t it funny?" joke. I found that today I was actually more distracted by things being written in the Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece boards.

Some members of this group recently discovered April’s Real Blog existed and heaped praise upon it. Then others came forward and cast a more critical eye upon us. Then much to my surprise, 2 former ARB participants came forward and described what ARB is all about and why they were not longer participating.

jw7579, who is apparently mst3k4evr said she left because: I just couldn't catch up on what was going on.

I found this to be particularly interesting because I remember at the time, doing a writing duo with mst3k4evr , and she had suggested that my character of Howard and her character of Kortney Krelbutz go to Las Vegas, which was too far away from the FOOBiverse to do much snarking, but I went along with it just be sociable, and then she stopped participating because she couldn’t keep up with the Vegas adventure. I find it a little ironic, the reason she chose for quitting was a result of her own suggestion about what the character should do.

The other one was Mad Elf, who is apparently schmoosie. It was good to know she is still alive and kicking and as near as I can tell from examining some of her posts, getting some Antidepressant medication, the lack of which used to really worry me about her. Her stated reason for departing was:

All that said, I was the original Liz, I had to get pretty pissy in order to leave because it's an addiction that SUCKS you in (emphasis on sucks), but I admit it, I was an original member of ARB...Liz no less! And I sucked too XP

From this I presume that schmoosie’s very awkward and disturbing departure/attack on qnjones was a part of some bizarre scheme for allowing herself to quit her ARB addiction. Some people are like that I guess, but I can’t say that I understand it or I would ever do it. qnjones' feelings were really hurt when schmoosie left, which I really hated.

As for the other persons on that board, there was a lot of really fine praise given to us. It did my ego a lot of good to read comments in particular made about posts or characters I was doing.

I'm sorry if this has been mentioned before -- I've only reading this thread for a few weeks -- but do you guys know about April's blog? It is hilarious.Michael Patterson left some comments on April's blog, including this snippet which cracks me up:

Right now on ARB I'm into the Liz/Paul/Anthony comments. Whoever writes as Paul is doing a really great job.

The only criticism was difficulty in understanding the teen internet speak. I know this is typical of what April would be using in a real teen Blog, but it made me wonder if the authenticity vs. alienating potential readers was worth it. I may tone down the teen speak a little with Jeremy Jones, to make it a little more readable, if I can. I have gotten so used to writing him that way, I may not be able to stop.

The other majour thing, the biggest and most important thing to me was that people do actually read April's Real Blog and the comments to it and enjoy it. I have often wondered about that. If I want to pander to that audience, then I cannot stray too far a field from the situations portrayed in the strip, or the persons reading it will not understand or be willing to try to understand the context. In other words, stories within Lynn Johnston's story will play best. You saw this happen and now this fills in the gaps or this happens on the side. That sort of thing.

I also felt it sort of justified my intention of constantly reintroducing characters as “Thorvald McGuire, Becky’s dad” for example, to help these kind of readers keep our ARB-unique characters straight.

Tomorrow's strip: We haven't had a Mike / Liz conversation alone since they talked about Liz's dancing prior to the Caine wedding in 2003. Not only that but I believe this is the first appearance of Elizabeth at Mike and Dee's apartment. We also have the interesting reintroduction to Elizabeth's drinking problem, as Elizabeth confesses she is actually paying her mother an extra $200 a month to stay out of her business. Just when I think Lynn Johnston can't take Elizabeth any lower, she manages to find a way to do it again. Liz is in free fall, and the thing is, if Anthony tries to catch her, she is just going to fall faster.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

April pimps Anthony

In today’s For Better or For Worse, I could tell that Lynn is not used to writing a Liz strip where she is around family and in particular, April. Getting Liz back into the Sharon Park Drive house does have the advantage of not having to do an April strip and then haul off to Mtigwaki for a Liz strip. We should see Liz much more often now, but the Liz ruminations on things are so much like when Liz was on her own with Shiimsa in Mtigwaki. Perhaps this is being intentionally done to show how much Mtigwaki has affected Liz, the real effect is that when placed side by side with the upbeat Anthony-pimper, April; Liz comes off as even colder, ruder, and more separated from her sister than ever. It hasn’t been that long since Liz and April used to be more huggy, buddy-buddy. This change in Liz’s character may not be fun to read, but it sure was fun to snark. Liz says and thinks an idiotic thing in every panel.

Tomorrow’s strip:

Going back to my premise that Lynn is still writing Liz in Mtigwaki, comes tomorrow’s strip, which is a continuation of so many Mtigwaki Shiimsa strips from Liz’s first year in Mtigwaki, in which she was an incompetent boob, when it came to cats. She doesn’t have Vivian Crane to save her this time. However, I expect Elly to show up and save the day any second now. Wait for it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Job is the Most Important

Today on For Better or For Worse, Liz appeared to be more concerned about her job than anything else regarding the Howard Bunt trial. On April's Real Blog, qnjones as Liz dropped a line about how Paul and Liz were having trouble talking about the subject, so I had Paul jump on this with a long dialogue about all the things Liz may be worried about with her job, and Paul trying to pull her back to more important things. I had to include a line from Susan Dokis explaining the mysterious comment in Liz’s September monthly letter about how Jesse Mukwa was not responding to her mail. The obvious choice was that Jesse couldn’t read or write.

The other big shock was that the Howard Bunt trial won’t occur until next month, so that means Howard has to find some way to occupy himself during that time. I thought of a fake marriage, and this gave me an opportunity to snark on Mike and Dee’s fake marriage. aprilp_katje as April proved to be the perfect foil and she did exactly as I hoped she would and pointed me to the website pages talking about Mike and Dee’s wedding.

My only complication was that I could not think of thing Shannon Lake would say about today’s strip, so I left her blank.

Tomorrow’s strip: The triumvirate is complete. John supported Anthony during their talk about his divorce. Elly supported Anthony when she asked Elizabeth if Anthony was helping her with her life or with a car purchase. And now April joins the fold with her “At least Anthony will be there for you” talk. I am starting to get concerned it has been so long since Constable Paul Wright has been mentioned. I have portrayed Paul as being regularly consulted about the situations in the strip, but when I think about how Elizabeth had to be forced to tell Paul she was moving away from Mtigwaki by Vivian Crane and how shutmouthed she is to April, maybe Paul does not know a thing about Howard, the attack, or Anthony. The best part is that if Lynn continues to play this like the Mike / Deanna romance, where a tragedy (car crash / attempted rape) brings them back together, then as Mike never told Rhetta about Deanna’s car accident, Elizabeth will never tell Paul about her attack and Anthony’s role in it.

My prediction:
October: The trial of the century. Howard is put away for a long time. Elizabeth and Anthony openly show affection for each other. Paul is mentioned to Anthony for the first time. Elizabeth feels something like guilt. Not actual guilt, because that is not possible for Elizabeth.

November: Mike’s first draft of his book is completed and receives rave reviews and goes off to be published. April and Becky face off once again over cheating in school, and Shannon Lake will comfort the dejected April. Hopefully there will be a Jeremy Jones appearance where he won’t look 40 years old.

December: Elizabeth goes to visit Paul and finds him in the arms of Susan Dokis. Elizabeth says, “That’s a relief” and makes some hideous pun about his name. The final appearance of Jesse Mukwa who, realizing that there is someone in the world who keeps their promise to return and see him, becomes the first Ojibway to perform brain surgery on the moon. He says, “Thanks to Elizabeth Patterson/White Goose keeping her promise, I have achieved greatness and magically solved all my problems which came from having been abandoned by my parents at a young age.”

January: Just like Mike, Anthony will propose to Elizabeth on New Years’ Eve. She accepts and we make a note that Elizabeth likes to ditch boyfriends over the holidays. Mike’s book becomes a best-seller. Many readers spontaneously vomit, while others write gloriously funny foefiction, imitating excerpts from the book. It’s looking like a Happy New Year.

Liz and Anthony Share a First of Sorts

Today on For Better or For Worse, was the first strip in over 6 years where Liz and Anthony were together and Anthony did not say or think a single word about how he wanted to be with Liz instead of where he is. I should mention in prior appearances together, pre-Paul Wright, Liz did the same thing back to Anthony, even when she was dating Warren and Eric. Of course in tomorrow’s strip, Anthony can’t take the pressure and goes back to thinking about being with Liz. Liz however, is on a roll with 2 strips in a row. Today her focus was on getting Howard off the planet. Tomorrow her main concern is her new job.

I think Lynn Johnston has paid some attention to sitcom couples and how the rating of the shows drop after the couples finally get together. Ross and Rachel from Friends, Sam and Diane from Cheers, Joel and Maggie from Northern Exposure, Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street. Of course, the comic strips are full of long term romances that take forever to get together. L’il Abner took 18 years to propose to Daisy Mae. It Basil St. John 36 years to land Brenda Starr. And of course, Judge Parker lost his strip to Sam Driver, once he got married in the 1960s after 12 years of romancing his wife. Given these legacies, Lynn Johnston appears to be labouring under the same belief. If Liz and Anthony ever get together, they must not be together for very long, or they will become stale and boring, much like Mike and Deanna are now.

The popularity of the Liz and Anthony story can easily be judged by the number of comments at the FOOBiverse’s Journal whenever the strip swings their way. No other characters in the strip illicit that much reaction. I may complain that neither Liz nor Anthony is a very nice character, but I would have the same complaint about most of the couples I listed above. Ernie was a particularly nasty piece of work. Liz and Anthony are just another of a series of unpleasant people who meet, fall in love, and have a protracted romance, and we wonder with interest if they will ever get together. When I look at Liz and Anthony and all those other unpleasant couples, it makes me wonder if I would find a romance between nice people interesting. Probably not. You can go all the way back to The Taming of the Shrew and find romance between nasty people to be much more interesting. This is obviously Lynn Johnston’s model. I should stop expecting Liz or Anthony to be nice to other people and not be so freakishly self-centered. Instead I should revel in their every selfish move. I will have to hand it to Lynn Johnston. To take a character who is based on her own daughter, and turn her into a self-centered, self-destructive character is a pretty brave and bold move. Even a year ago, I would never have thought Elizabeth would be one of the most unlikable characters in the strip, but now look at her. She’s getting ready to go to a trial for the man who attacked her and her thoughts are entirely self-oriented. Liz is marvelously awful, and I can’t take my eyes off her.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Iris Chooses Another

Today in For Better or For Worse, Iris accidentally mistakes another man on a scooter for her husband. I was briefly stumped what to do with this until aprilp_katje posting as Marjee Mahaha points out that Becky takes Jeremy Jones out to the park to do a Public Display of Affection in imitation of the one Howard and Marjee did. My brain turned on the idea that more than one couple might want to imitate Howard and Marjee, so I derived this whole sequence in imitation of the strip, where the women of the couples doing the PDA keep dragging off the wrong guys. For the good constable, I used the same situation to snark about the physical similarities between Gary Crane and Paul Wright. It was pretty ridiculous, but not much more ridiculous than the idea that Iris wouldn’t notice she was walking off with the wrong person.

Tomorrow’s strip:
Liz and Anthony united by their common bond of Howard hate. It’s interesting that the emotionally flighty Liz, during the last time we saw her with Anthony, has progressed to the more comfortable with Anthony, Liz. Not so comfortable her last line is spoken out loud and not in a thought balloon. However, this is the first conversation the two of them have had which did not involve the idea that they wanted to be together, but couldn’t, since I don’t know when. Since before the Houston Chronicle archive, which goes back to September, 2001 anyway. We are steaming right along to a Mike and Deanna kind of storyline, except instead of a car accident, we get the trial of Howard Bunt. Expect attraction and guilt feelings to follow. Then the fatal visit of Paul at Christmas which will match Mike calling Rhetta and finding out she is on a date.

Howard Won’t Get What He Deserves, and Neither Will We

Today on For Better or For Worse seems to be continuing down the path of criticizing the Canadian justice system, as Liz suggests that Howard Bunt will not get the punishment he deserves. The crucial ingredient which is unknown to the avid reader of this strip is: How bad was Howard to the other 2 girls? Did they get Liz-like treatment, or were they raped? This is difficult to judge from the information available. One way is to try to determine what would have happened to Liz, if Anthony had not been there. When Howard attacked Liz, it was during the daytime, in the middle of a store open to the public, where there were other employees who could walk in on them at any time. It seems an unlikely situation for an attack which would involve any kind of prolonged activity. The way it was played out in the strip with Liz, it looked like Howard was trying to kiss Liz and not much more. I suspect this could be because Lynn was more interested in the Anthony rescue aspect of the situation than a situation where Liz could be raped. As further evidence, you have the reactions of all the persons afterwards, who seemed to give the attack very little importance.

If the other girls are like Liz, and Howard tried to or did kiss them in a public place in the middle of the day, I don’t think Howard will get much of a punishment. My anonymous poster familiar with the Canadian legal system from back last year would lead me to believe it would be 30 days for each offence. The monthly letters have given us the clue it will be 2 years, so my guess is that this is the way Lynn is headed. But what does Liz really expect? It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It could be:

1. Howard comes off like an ass. He is taken down by Liz’s testimony and a much longer sentence than he expected, while Liz is impressed that things went better than she expected.
2. Howard comes off like an ass, but once again Anthony rescues her in some way.
3. Howard is completely repentant, and because of the Patterson influence, has decided to change his ways.
4. Howard comes off like an ass and gets a light sentence, if any at all, while Liz fumes about the poor quality of Canadian justice. Meanwhile, Howard gets his comeuppance in a different way, like falling in mud, or something like that.
5. Howard comes off like an ass and gets a reasonable/excessive sentence, while Liz fumes about the poor quality of Canadian justice, not realizing it is actually a reasonable/excessive sentence.
6. We don’t even see Howard, but we see another awkward conversation between Liz and Anthony during and after the trial.

Tomorrow’s strip: Iris can’t recognize her husband is not the one driving the scooter right beside her, and this is supposed to be funny? It’s funny in the pathetic “grandpa eats dog food” kind of way. It sucks to be old, but it sure is funny to laugh at them.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tired and Impatient

Today in For Better or For Worse, we basically recapped what happened in the October monthly letter. Tomorrow’s strip, we explain a subpoena, over and over again. In April’s Real Blog, we explain all the problems with the legal part of the strip. I'm getting bored. Bring the trial!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bye-Bye Howard, But Wait!!

In today’s For Better or For Worse, the mysterious policeman arrives and actually delivers a credible cliffhanger into the next strip. The last time we had a cliffhanger was when we were trying to find out what Liz’s spirit name was and that was not too much of a cliffhanger, because I really didn’t care. However, this time I was actually interested in the outcome, because I have been primarily posting as Howard, ever since I started doing this business more than a year ago.

I will have to admit, my initial thought was that Liz had miraculously gotten some kind of policeman award for suggesting in her school that Mtigwaki schools did more with less, but then it dawned on me that the visit had to be in reference to Howard. The Howard story last year was easily the most interesting story of For Better or For Worse in the last year and not because it was well-written. It was so poorly written that it managed to offend virtually the entire readership that makes comments in commentaries. And not with a minor offence either. The issue came up again and again on a scale that had not been achieved since Deanna intentionally screwed up her birth control. It was out of this moment, I birthed my version of Howard. However, it was a credit to the extraordinarily poor writing of Lynn Johnston, that the contributors of April’s Real Blog embraced Howard, guilty of assault, over the victim Liz and her rescuer Anthony.

More than a year later, Lynn has come back and is going to retcon the heck out of that moment. I think it is too late to do it. The opportunities were there all year long. She could have shown Liz having an intimate discussion with Paul about why she is so cold to him, because she was afraid of being hurt by a man because of the things Howard, and then Anthony did to her. She could have shown Liz actually getting angry at herself about having let Howard’s attentions go so far without doing anything about it. She could have shown Dr. John Patterson wanting to rip out Howard’s lungs, in fury that his daughter had been assaulted. In other words, there was an opportunity for a moment that would have matched and exceeded the “Lawrence is gay” strips, if she addressed Elizabeth and her family’s reactions as a normal woman and her family would react to being assaulted. It could have been a contender for the best For Better or For Worse strips ever. Instead it may go down as the worst. At this late date, I don’t think any amount of retconning can undo it.

Today in April’s Real Blog, I had my Howard swing through snarking territory, hitting all the monthly letters and visiting a few of the characters who were primary to Howard stories over the last year. I normally try to space those out over the course of a month, but it seemed appropriate to rip them all out in one day. It mades for a nice farewell to the character.

Of course I acted too soon. My hoped for, nay dreamed for Howard trial is going to come true. Lynn loves me after all. And Howard has a last name, that doesn't even begin with a K. How hard is it to change the name of your Blog?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Funny Liz is Disoriented

Today in For Better or For Worse, it was another one of those strips where, in order to get you to the joke, the writers find it necessary to set up the main character in a series of improbable situations, to which anyone with any kind of common sense would react differently. Not only would anyone with sense react differently, but the character has to be altered so that you ignore the character’s background and pretend that the character is a simpleton.

Situation #1: You have to share the bathroom. Liz had roommates every year of university, and siblings every year she was at home. In order for this part of the joke to work, you would have to imagine that in the 2 years she was in Mtigwaki, she became so accustomed to having a shower for herself alone, that she cannot adjust to finding someone in the shower. When you add in the fact, that Liz came home over the summer and the Christmas holidays each year she was in Mtigwaki, and had to share a shower at home, it becomes even more nonsensical. I snarked as Shannon the possibility of her being special needs, but I know from my boy’s Asperger’s Syndrome, this exact situation happens to him. When he is faced with an unexpected difficulty, he sometimes panics and starts trying to destroy things, or he will stand around and wait for someone else to find his difficulty, try to interpret what his difficulty is, and then solve the problem for him. Liz reminded me a lot of my son in this strip.

Situation #2: You have to share the kitchen. Same verse as Situation #2, except even worse. The only time Liz did not share a kitchen her entire life was in Mtigwaki, and even there she was often in Vivian Crane’s kitchen helping her cook. The alternative suggestion is: You have to eat what everyone else eats, but the situation is not much different, because when Liz lived under the care of Auntie Roo, she had to eat what Auntie Roo cooked; when Liz lived with Elly, she ate what Elly cooked, etc.

Situation #3: You have to share the chesterfield. This one is a little different. My son would be inclined to push the dogs out of the way to get a seat, or he would go to his room to pout about not getting to sit on the chesterfield. Of course, my son has terrible animal allergies, so he does not have to deal with dogs. I grew up with dogs, and I can tell you that no dogs were ever allowed to lounge around on our couches. In Liz’s case, it is at this point, Liz seems to come out of her stupor and realize what an idiot she has been in the prior 2 panels.

So, once again, it is a failure for a strip. The writer has failed to realize the basic ingredients of what makes a funny joke. If you cannot get the reader to buy into the setup of the joke, then it does not matter how funny the punch line is, the reader will not laugh. For example, if I say, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” to set up the punch line, there should be no question as to whether or not chickens can cross roads. The humour is then derived from the reader attempting to understand the motivations of a mind foreign to them, but with similar desires and behaviours, and while you are engaged in pondering that, then the punch line “To get to the other side” is funny because it is not the expected answer for motivating a chicken. It is humour by surprise.

In For Better or For Worse, the joke is not funny, because at the very outset, anyone familiar with the character of Elizabeth Patterson would know that she would not be taken aback at any of things presented to her. So, when the punch line fires off, the knowledgeable reader is left wondering “Is the joke that Elizabeth is becoming mentally ill, or suffering from some kind of disorientation?” For someone completely unaware of Elizabeth’s background, after reading the strip they would respond with, “Oh! I guess the character is a simpleton has moved into a house with other people after living by herself for most of her life.”

What should have happened? Elizabeth should have pushed the dogs off the chesterfield, or gone to sit in another room with a chesterfield, gone to help her mother cook while she waited for April to get out of the shower, or gone to her room. If a punch line were inserted into any of those situations, it would have made more sense. For example:

After seeing the dogs, Liz goes to her room and lies on the bed and thinks, “I’ll guess I’ll wait!”

Next panel shows Liz snoring in her bed and being woken up by Elly. Elly says, “Liz. Wake up! We’ve been waiting for you to come to have dinner with us.”

Then Liz puns, “Good things come to those who wake.”

It’s not very funny, however, it does have the advantage of not making Liz look like an idiot.

Tomorrow's Strip: Holy crap! Get ready to kiss Howard good-bye! Elizabeth is about to get praised for pressing charges. The storyline which seemingly ended without resolution back last August is about to get a resolution. Yes. Elizabeth Patterson, because you pressed charges from your going-after, without having to make any court appearances or doing anything else that would normally be associated with the regular legal system, you have managed to put Howard, the desperate villain, away in prison for a gazillion years. It's all thanks to you. You are going to get a special award and the mayor is going to give you the key to the city.

Liz will say, "But no, officer. The special award to be given by the mayor of Milborough and the key to the city should go to Anthony Caine too, because he was the one who kept my going-after from becoming a went-after, with his terrible ear-tweaking." The officer says, "Well, if you say so Miss Patterson. To show its gratitude to you and Mr. Caine, not only will we give you an award, and the key to the city, but we will pay for your wedding to Mr. Caine." Liz says, "But I have a boyfriend in the OPP." The officer says, "The offer is only good for Anthony Caine. Police officers can't participate in sweepstakes, because technically they are an employee." Liz says, "Well, all right. If those are the rules, I'll marry Anthony then. Think of the money I will save. A new job, a used husband, a slightly used baby. And I won't have to share a shower with April anymore. My life could not be more perfect. It's great to be a Patterson."

September Monthly Letters

As is my custom, I evaluate the monthly letters from For Better or For Worse for things which affect my characters in April’s Real Blog. Normally aprilp_katje does this too, but she must be busy with something to skip this ritual. It’s the first time she has skipped the monthly letters in over a year of doing April’s Real Blog. I was quite surprised. However, aprilp_katje did drop in to retcon away April’s monthly letter where she said:

Anyways, I totally blend with Duncan and even though he's with Eva, we've promised to know each other all of our lives.

As for me, I don’t particularly care if Eva is with Duncan or Jeremy Jones. However, the_berserker takes personal offence at it, and susannamoodie, who had been posting as Duncan’s girlfriend Zandra Larson, has apparently sequestered herself from posting. I hope susannamoodie is not ill or destitute or ticked off at me about that whole goat-headed baby monster story I created with Zandra in it. Nevertheless, the Zandra / Duncan relationship is the only reason Duncan is not with Eva in April’s Real Blog. I had prepared a long Jeremy and Eva break up story, in the event aprilp_katje did not retcon it. The story was basically a snark about how Eva and Duncan were supposed to have this whole “he likes her, but she doesn’t want to commit, but then eventually decides she likes him” story except it was all hidden from view and Jeremy reinterpreted some of the Eva actions of late, as clues that this whole hidden story was going on. So the snark was how Lynn didn’t bother telling the Eva / Duncan story, even in the monthly letters.

Aside from that indirect reference, my characters of Jeremy Jones and Howard, got no mention this month, as usual. So that leaves me Constable Paul Wright. He is mentioned twice in Liz’s letter.

Hooray for full-time work! That means I'll be able to keep my savings account topped up, and make enough to cover my expenses. It's excellent news. It also leaves me with my weekends free (I'll be driving to visit Paul AOAP - as often as possible), summers off, and a reasonable commute.

I really do not know if Liz’s comment about driving to visit Paul AOAP is going to be a monthly-letters only storyline, to account for the fact that Liz in the strip basically put him off until Christmas. Nevertheless, I will have to account for that possibility. Paul will have to have a few days open on the weekends, just in case Liz decides to show up.

Of course I also got desperately lonely and missed Paul tremendously. I still do, but Milborough is that much closer to White River, and I'll have a regular schedule so I can make long range plans - at long last!

The monthly letters writer doesn’t seem to know White River is not Otter County. But last month’s visit to White River wasn’t really to visit Paul’s parents, but to visit Paul alone. Oops! In fact, a scan over all the monthly letters shows Otter County has never been mentioned. That error aside, the interesting thing to note is that when Liz talks about Paul she no longer mentions the communication rituals (snail mail, phone call, IM messaging, e-mailing) which she studiously mentioned in the monthly letters from Mtigwaki. In fact, there is no mention of Paul communicating with Liz at all. In the strip, all we have seen is Liz sending an e-mail to Paul, but not the reverse, like when April would send one back to Liz. The inferred message is that Paul has started to pull back from the relationship. I have been doing that to a certain degree, but I suppose I can step it up a little.

Tomorrow’s strip: Liz stupidly wanders around in her bathrobe and realizes where she is. I am beginning to wonder if this isn’t some kind of bizarre snark of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, with Liz playing the part of Arthur Dent.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lynn Johnston's Feminist Manifesto

Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse took the astonishing perspective that Liz, after having moved into her parents’ house, seemed to be pretending like fate or circumstances beyond her control had put her in the situation of living with her parents. Sometimes on April’s Real Blog, we take a Meta perspective in our snarking, but today’s strip was very close to the same thing being done in the strip itself. Liz seems to be unaware that everything that has happened was her own decision, like she is also commenting to us about the way she is being manipulated into Anthony’s arms. The fact that she actually uses the language about fate when she talks about her relationship with Constable Paul Wright should also give us a big clue how that relationship is going to end up.

Some of the commentary in the various For Better or For Worse commentaries, has taken the perspective that Lynn’s use of Liz is setting back feminism by several decades. Although I think Lynn is guilty of an extremely heavy-handed manipulation of the character, Lynn’s personal feminist manifesto is quite clearly evident in the way Liz has been acting.

Education for women: Elly has made it clear in the strip that she deeply resents having lost the opportunity to complete her degree, when she got married and started making babies. Both Liz and Deanna got their degree. April talks about a career choice as a veterinarian. Elly talks about Merrie getting the opportunities she didn’t. I think it is fairly safe to say, Lynn Johnston does not believe women should be uneducated.

Man is not the leader:The Lynn Johnston perspective, seems to me to be, not only is the man not the leader, but the man better stay out of the way of the woman, and he is lucky even to be consulted on majour issues. Elly berates John when he doesn’t do things her way, and she is shown to have complete control over burial plot selection, car purchases, and retirement home purchases. Likewise, Liz does not follow boyfriend Anthony to his choice of university, boyfriend Warren to British Columbia, and only consulted Constable Paul Wright about her job-changing to Mississauga after she had already made the decision. There are some women who believe men should be seen and not heard, and Lynn Johnston is clearly in that camp, based on these two characters.

Women are in charge of the children: Deanna is shown handling the kids much more frequently than Mike. Not only that, but this is the main objectionable feature about Thérèse Caine. The usual feminist approach is that the man and woman should be equal caretakers of the children, but it is clear Lynn Johnston would disagree with this perspective. My “Sex and Gender in Society” professor in university would disagree also. According to my professor one of the universal truths about every society in the world is that the women are the primary caretakers of children.

Women should have a career: Elly has been constantly seeking after jobs for the life of the strip. Not only that, but Elly strongly encouraged Deanna to return to work very shortly after Merrie was born. Also, Mira Sobinski, who was a stay-at-home mom was criticized severely for babying her 2 daughters. I personally think you could be a stay-at-home mom and be a feminist, but I think Lynn Johnston would disagree with me.

Women should experience adventure: Deanna went to Honduras. Liz went to Mtigwaki. And to be honest, Lynn is playing this one with a level playing field for men and women, since Mike got to go to Japan for the Divala interview. All 3 characters, after having their adventure, have since been made to come home.

So, even though I may think Liz is an idiot to destroy an almost perfect situation she had in Mtigwaki, and it is pretty obvious Liz left for no other reason than to pursue the now-divorced Anthony Caine, I wouldn’t say Lynn is setting back feminism. By chasing after Anthony in the face of common sense, Lynn is portraying Liz as a woman who goes after what she wants, even if she blames fate for making her do it.

Band practice

In today’s For Better or For Worse, there were a few surprises. The first one was that Eva Abuya was wearing as revealing clothes as she was. In the old days, if Becky McGuire had worn an outfit like that, a comment would have been made about it. The second one was that Duncan Anderson, honestly, looked like a girl. I would think that at some point in the art, someone would look back at it and say, “You know. I don’t think Duncan has breasts.” The third one was that, and aprilp_katje will be upset at me for saying this, but the pun was actually not too bad. It was taking the words “pop” and “culture” and using a reinterpretation of the meaning by reversing the order. I do this kind of humour often. Like Frosted Flakes, which I frequently refer to as the Flakes of Frost. Compared to “dynamics” and “dynamite”, the painful pun from the prior day, “pop culture” was quite a bit better.

Tomorrow’s strip: Liz moves back in and if Lynn keeps working in real time, April and Liz will both go back to school on Tuesday. Oddly enough, the point of the strip appears to be to contradict Thomas Wolfe. Apparently, you can go back home again.

"Oh Mother Elly, but it wasn't a dream! It was a place! I went to a magical place called Mtigwaki. And you - and you - and you - and you were there. But you couldn't have been, could you? I saw Anthony there, only he was a First Nations policeman named Paul Wright. I saw you there mother Elly, only you were a Métis woman named Vivian Crane. And dad was an Ojibway named Gary Crane. And April was a little Ojibway boy abandoned by his parents named Jesse Mukwa, who was always pestering me and getting into my stuff. And even Edgar was there only he was a cat named Shiimsa. It was all very wonderful, but the whole time I wanted to go home. Oh, but anyway, Edgar, we're home. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and - oh, Mother Elly - there's no place like home!”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

April Complains About Elizabeth Part II

In today's For Better or For Worse, April makes a pretty good point about not wanting to be treated like a kid again, just because Elizabeth moves back in the house. Unfortunately for her, her dad zones out and makes a pun. In April's Real Blog, we took him to task for this, for a variety of reasons.

The two posts I was proudest of where the Constable Paul Wright post, about his difficulty in understanding the Patterson punning, and also his recounting of his treatment by John Patterson, when he reeled off a series of puns similar to the one in the strip, except each one was a personal insult of Paul.

The second post came from Howard as he discusses John Patterson's punning and Elizabeth Patterson in general with a group of unusually knowledgable, but gossipy Milborough women. I essentially went through all the Liz / Anthony strips on-line and created the Liz / Anthony story. The evidence against Liz is fairly damning if you read it all at once. I was intrigued by the idea that all of Liz and Anthony's public gatherings would have been observed and discussed by old ladies in Milborough.

Tomorrow's strip: I took this one apart in the FOOBiverse's Journal. So many places where the hands look deformed, and the instrumental setup was nonsensical. However, there was just a hint of Eva / Duncan, so it will be interesting to see what the strip does with that relationship.

Friday, September 01, 2006

April Complains About Liz Part I

In For Better or For Worse today, we see Eva speak again. I was beginning to wonder if she had gone mute, she hadn’t spoken in the strip in so long. I suppose this was Lynn’s effort for us to understand that Eva has replaced Becky McGuire in terms of being a confidante, but the Eva – April and Becky-April dynamics are very different. With Becky, they would show shots of Becky and April lying on April’s bed with April’s stuff all over the floor in disarray. With Eva we have had (1) Eva complimenting April’s hair clip and shoes, (2) Eva comparing boys, cars, and cell phones to cowboys, in a bizarrely awkward sequence which made everyone think Eva was a crazy person, instead of the intended humourous and insightful. (3) Today’s sequence, where Eva immediately offers April a self-help book kind of solution instead doing the usual empathy thing, she comes off as too mature for 15. Lynn Johnston in the olden days of yore probably could have pulled off establishing Eva as the new best friend of April in 3 short scenes, but the people writing the strip today do not have the slightest clue.

The other mysterious aspect of Liz moving in, is that neither John nor Elly seemed to be concerned about the matter. The way it is written, they don’t even think about the possibility until April mentions it. In tomorrow’s strip, John asks for April’s opinion but then when she gives it, blows her off with an “I see” and an extremely bad pun. We often complain that Elly and John seem uninterested in April, but it is nice to see that Liz is showing signs of being treated the same way.

On April’s Real Blog, I had Jeremy snark the outfit April was wearing. Shannon snarked Liz by comparing her to her brother…again!!! Michael keyed off aprilp_katje’s mention that Eva resembled Cousin Laura. Constable Paul Wright snarked the differences in the April / Liz relationship by comparing the monthly letter description of their relationship to the strip version. I had hoped the monthly letters would arrive today, so I could find out how they are handling the Liz – Paul separation. I guess I will have to wait until next week.