Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!!

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we had a sweet, intimate moment between Iris and Jim. Since dancing was mentioned, I got to dig out the old dancing moments for Constable Paul Wright, because he basically dances by picking up the girl and grinding his crotch into her, and because he did the same maneuver for both Liz and Susan, so there was that element of a man having to choose between 2 women, which I hope is a part of the Mtigwaki storyline. I had thought we were going to be leading into a “Liz goes to Mtigwaki” storyline, but I guess I had misinterpreted the leaked January letters. She said, “I'll be heading up to Mtig to visit in a few days!” So, this could mean a mid-week story change, or it could mean we get to see another full week of post-fire aftermath. I had been complaining the post-fire aftermath would be too abrupt if it stopped after last week, so I can’t say that I am disturbed by the change. Perhaps we will be allowed to see a few of the things I suggested in yesterday’s post. I hope for a hospital to the Kelpfroths. Hope. Hope. Hope.

Aside from that, I let Iris snark on Elly and Deanna a little via Jeremy at the New Years Eve party. And since aprilp_katje set up the Duncan Anderson house New Years Eve party, I though we would get a little interplay there. I did a little, but I wasn’t inspired to create scenes of chaos.

My favourite little bit is the unanswered question of what Elizabeth Patterson did last New Years Eve. From New Years 2002 to 2005, she attended events either with or where Anthony Caine was present. Then for New Years 2006, she broke up with Warren Blackwood officially, got stinking drunk, declared that Milborough was no longer her home, and declared Constable Paul Wright was officially her new boyfriend (news which would have been a surprise to the good constable, who probably thought he was her boyfriend 2 months prior to that point). What we don’t know is where she went, or what happened, or if she had another encounter with Anthony Caine. All those details are a mystery. All we know is that whatever happened, Elizabeth got drunk and was deeply introspective about whether Milborough was her home. However, there are some presumptions that can be made. When Anthony Caine got divorced, he did not immediately call up Elizabeth and let her know he was a free man. Plus, Anthony made a big deal about being friends again with Elizabeth when he finally saw her again at the car lot. And we also saw Elizabeth make the move to get back to Milborough as soon as she found Anthony Caine was getting divorced because now, she needed to be back home where just in January she declared was no longer her home. It doesn’t take a lot of extrapolation to see Anthony = home, and whatever happened last New Years Eve had to do with Anthony Caine. So, in my best Lynn Johnston manner, I played it as Elizabeth made a complete fool of herself, but no one is talking about exactly what she did. After all, John and April Patterson both mocked the hungover Liz. Whatever she did, must have been a doozy.

Tomorrow’s strip: Photo albums and the blanket reappear. Since Deanna was more concerned about these items than Mike’s safety during the fire, it’s interesting to see her reaction getting these back. But more interesting is the idea that Lynn Johnston considers this to be important.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Fire is Over. Let's Dance.

Taking the For Better or For Worse fire story arc as a whole, we have 1 week with fire and the next week, Lynn tries to cover all the bases of what happened due to the fire. The first week was actually pretty good, with quite a bit of excitement and Pattersons running around doing stupid things. The second week however, missed and oh, how it missed. 3 of the 6 daily strips this week were devoted to Michael Patterson talking to Josef Weeder. If you want to wring some emotion out of a desperate situation, there is no better place to go than with the kids and in the 2 strips where they appeared they were completely silent.

1. Michael, Deanna and kids going to the hospital to visit the Kelpfroths
2. Michael facing up to his wife and children after he abandoned them with Merrie getting a good dig in to daddy how his work was more important to him than she is, while at the same time loving on him.
3. Seeing Elizabeth and April pitching in to help with the kids as Deanna starts to weep uncontrollably at her losses.
4. Seeing a heart-to-heart between Deanna and Dr. John Patterson as they go to work together.

After going through all the trouble to set this storyline up, 1½ years of being tortured by the Kelpfroths, Lynn polishes it all off in 2 weeks. It seems like a waste to me, particularly when you consider what could have been done.

Tomorrow’s strip: Jim and Iris go out of bed, to a chair, and back up for some dancing. However, it does not match this line from Grandpa Jim’s January letter:

We celebrated the New Year with a bit of dancing; Jim was always an excellent dancer and while he can't actually get up and groove, he puts his arm around me and we sway in our seats.

My plan is for Jeremy Jones to DJ the old person party, since the strip doesn’t show it at all. I predict Monday will be Liz going to Mtigwaki and seeing Constable Paul Wright. I think we have a breakup coming and I just know Lynn Johnston is going to make it stupendously terrible. It will be so much fun to snark.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Everything is Fine Without Mira

Today’s For Better or For Worse was very interesting to me, because it appeared to me that Deanna was telling her mother to “buzz off and don’t try to help me because I don’t need help”, while at the same time, her kids were clinging to her like they were filled with static electricity. This was a stark contrast to the leaked January letters, and so my favourite snark of the day was as Michael Patterson, where he took the things in the January letters it said Elly and John did for Deanna and Mike and compared them to the things it said Mira and Wilf did. Suprisingly enough, I didn’t even have to change it at all to snark it. The January monthly letter writer’s description of Mira and Wilf put them vastly ahead of Elly and John in not only generosity but practical generosity. For example, the idea of letting Mike and Deanna get a great deal on some scratch-and-dent children's furniture is pretty darn funny, and cannot help but to think the monthly letter writer was snarking the strip herself when she wrote it.

With Constable Paul Wright, I researched Ojibway overcrowding in Canada. I found an on-line 2004 report of the United Nations investigating the poor condition of Aboriginal tribes in Canada, and so all the things Paul quoted were from that report. Needless to say, it was a laundry list of awful conditions, of which overcrowding was mentioned but was by no means the worst thing. This worked out to be a nice contrast to April being upset over the loss of her room to Mike and Dee.

Jeremy Jones jumped in with the_berserker posting as Duncan and pointed out the "uncharacteristic for April" animal pictures on the wall in today's strip. aprilp_katje countered with the “Liz possessed by Shiimsa” subplot, qnjones originated several months ago, which was a clever way to cover the matter.

Howard Bunt discussed the healing of burnt skin. It was not very funny and was more character development than anything, to set a time table for getting the Kelpfroths and Howard out of the hospital.

Tomorrow’s strip: I hoped for the “Deanna hissing at Mike” scene described in the monthly letter but it appears that was yet another retcon written by an embarrassed Lynnion. My guess is Sunday will be the New Years Eve party described by Iris in the January monthly letter, where we have a touching moment with Jim trying to dance. I plan to put Jeremy Jones in as the DJ in that party, unless the strip shows the DJ too closely and he doesn’t look like Jeremy. Monday is most likely Liz heading off to Mtigwaki, and what could very well be the final appearance of Constable Paul Wright, if things go as I expect and they break up. Since Paul is going up with Liz, I think the breakup will occur in the first week, and then Liz will be comforted by the people in Mtigwaki in the following week. We shall see if I am right.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Word of the Day is Shock

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we are back to Mike visiting with Carleen and Weed. Tomorrow is a Deanna-centric strip, and I am actually happy about that. Getting only Mike's perspective on things every day is a little trying. With Mike, my objective in writing him is to make fun of the things he is doing which don’t make sense and I try to make it make sense. For example, in today’s strip, Mike was listening to Weed talk about where everyone is living in panel 2, and then out of the blue, Mike suddenly says he feels sick, and Carleen gives him that “You’re in shock” speech. Well, it just didn’t make sense. Why would Weed’s dialogue bring that reaction in Mike? So, I turned it into the realization that he would no longer be living close to Josef Weeder after spending 11 years in close proximity to him. That fit with what Weed just said and could possibly give Mike a sick feeling.

There is a tendency within the various groups that comment on For Better or For Worse to simply slam Mike for everything he does. If he spends time with his family, it is a token effort. If he spends time at work, he is ignoring his family. It’s a no win kind of situation for him with the commentators, and there is a great deal in the entertainment media today which follows the same course with working fathers.

My kids and I recently saw the movie Night at the Museum where the majour plot point is that the Ben Stiller character takes the job at the museum, in order to satisfy his son, whose acceptance of his father is based solely on his employment. In the kid’s films, I get to see on a regular basis, thanks to having kids; the fathers are frequently placed in the situation where everything would be better if only they spent less time at work and more time with their families, which is almost never a plot point with women. My wife stays at home with the kids, and I go to work. There is no way I can match the time she gets with the kids. It is simply not possible. And given the way the school system seems to set its hours and days off, I often wonder how families with 2 working parents can handle it. The schools seem to be geared towards parents who have one parent free at all times, to drop everything and come to the school at a moment’s notice.

So, these movies bother me a lot, and when the same issue comes up with For Better or For Worse, I have a great deal of empathy for Michael Patterson. And despite that natural empathy, Lynn Johnston has still managed to turn me against him. This fire plotline has tested me, to try and write him and make him seem human and not just a completely self-centred prig. I snark the strip on its discrepancies, fill in the plot holes with hopefully funny stuff, and try to make sense out of what Mike did during the fire.

Now with tomorrow’s strip, we get see Deanna handling the kids by herself…. again. I have to think that Lynn Johnston is really trying to slam this point home: Mike is neglecting his kids. Even if you empathize with Mike, it is hard to get around it. This whole fire sequence makes this point again and again, but I don’t know if this is the point Lynn Johnston is trying to make. I think she is trying to set up the idea that when Mike’s book becomes a best-seller, he no longer needs to work at Portrait Magazine, and he can concentrate on writing books, and he will magically become a more attentive father. It will be sort of a “Quit Portrait for your kids’ sake” idea. While she is putting this idea forth, what Lynn is inadvertently doing is making Michael more and more unlikable. Deanna has learned now first hand that in a crisis, Mike is undependable.

A few years ago, my wife and I were in a car accident my kids, and they cried and cried for a long time. In those kinds of situations, you hold your kids close to you and tell them “Daddy’s here” and “Everything is all right” until they calm down. When I saw the fire sequence, Mike did none of that. Lynn Johnston has turned the character into a heartless, cold man.

Unlike Lynn Johnston, I am tired of slamming Mike. So, Constable Paul Wright focused on a comparison between the ways the aboriginal people of Canada are treated in comparison to how the Kelpfroths were treated in the strip. The comparison worked pretty well, I thought. Howard gave an analysis of the different kids of shock, mainly because in researching shock I discovered that there was a whole type of shock that was specific to getting severely burned. And Jeremy Jones snarked the whole idea that these people would get together to stare at the old burnt apartment. Jeremy was finally able to entice April to take an evening out, so we could do a real-time story-telling kind of like we used to do in the old days. It worked out pretty well, even though it was not as rapid-fire as when we used to do those things.

I was floored when aprilp_katje came up with the idea for having the kids visit the Kelpfroths in the hospital, not only because I didn’t think of it at all, but mainly because it is the sort of thing that Lynn Johnston in her glory days would have done. Can you imagine it? If Mike and Deanna had taken Merrie and Robin to see them in the burn ward, and maybe even felt sorry for them? April visiting Jeremy Jones in the hospital was OK, but I think this idea would have knocked the socks off the regular readers of the strip. The idea that Merrie and Robin would try to hug the Kelpfroths was just terrific. That’s the kind of thing April’s Real Blog is really good for. It’s one thing to make fun of the strip, but if you really want to punch home its weaknesses, write up a plot that would have kicked ass and taken names.

A few notes: Disney on Ice really is showing at the Rogers Center in Toronto, although the show is at 4 pm. I set it at a later time so, aprilp_katje would have time to get off work and participate. The description of the Disney on Ice show comes from the Disney on Ice website, which kindly provided pictures of the show for my snarking. Baloo the Bear is not in the show, but I thought the idea of Gerald in a bear costume on skates was amusing. I decided Jeremy’s unnamed future sis would be into seeing a Disney on Ice show, mainly because I would like to see one. The last one that came through town, my kids didn’t want to see because they were “too big.” That’s a problem with me, because I have always liked those things, and having kids was always a good excuse to see them. Who would have thought my kids at ages 9 and 11 would be “too big?”

Other notes: The CN tower really is known for fine desserts, and has a revolving restaurant on top. I have not been there, but Reunion Tower in Dallas, Texas is like that, and I have been there. It is supposedly a romantic place to go, so I thought having Gerald and April there would be fun, and I could run through a little “meta” style conversation with Merrie and Robin.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tell Us What Happened, Mike. Again! Again!

In Todays’ For Better or For Worse, we get to see Michael tell his side of the story of the fire to Josef Weeder and a mute-until-Thursday, Carleen Stein. A comic strip is a visual medium and so many details can be told in pictures much more effectively than words, and yet with an exciting storyline like a house fire and burnt downstairs neighbours, Lynn has chosen to tell the story once again using the method of having someone in the strip tell someone else in the strip what happened. Panel 3 in today’s strip is particularly laborious, with the panel dialogue literally taking 2/3 of the panel. I have seen this happen with comic strip writers before, when they become too dialogue-heavy. It is usually a sign the writer really wants to write and not draw. In Lynn’s case, it is a sign she is ready to be done with this strip.

Producing a story with words is much, much faster than drawing, particularly when the artist has physical problems which make the art difficult. Taking Panel 3 as an example, we have a picture of Mike talking in a side view; with essentially no time taken to show the emotion on his face which would normally go with someone saying, “I was never so glad to see someone in my life!” His face is blank and he is talking. The artist is trying to show his emotion with what he is saying and not how he looks. A person’s emotion shown in his body or his face can carry so much of the story without having to say anything, but it takes time to get the picture right, when you are drawing semi-realistically, as is done in this strip. Drawing facial expressions was one of those things Lynn Johnston did very well in her younger years, and the lack of detail here shows how little effort she is putting into the strip these days.

Using the telling and not showing style, then we get the fire story in this fashion:

Monday: Deanna tells us Michael is OK and the fire was started by Melville Kelpfroth smoking in bed and disabling the fire alarm.

Tuesday: Mike visit Weed and Carleen where we find out Lovey and Weed’s places were essentially untouched and the Kelpfroths are in serious condition.

Wednesday: We learn Josef Weeder found out about the fire through the fire trucks, and Mike was pulled out by the firefighters.

Thursday: We learn where everyone is staying. Mike is staying with his parents. Weed is bunking at the studio. Lovey is staying with friends.

Friday and Saturday: These days will probably put Mike back at home, and with any luck, we will see the “Deanna hissing at Mike” scene. OR, given the style of story-telling, we will have Mike telling Elly that Deanna hissed. Oh, and lest I forget, we will have some kind of "beginning a new year" platitude.

Smoking is Bad if You Use it to Try to Kill Other People

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we got to see Mike for the first time since the fire and he is with Josef Weeder. No matter how many strips Lynn Johnston does where she shows Mike with his kids or Mike with his wife; a strip like this will take back all that family love in favour of the suspicion there is something between Mike and Weed. Carleen doesn’t say a word in this strip or in tomorrow’s strip. Lovey’s rant about the Kelpfroths is not directly to them at all nor does she care that they do not respond to her. The message here is Weed is uninjured and he will continue living in his apartment. Lynn Johnson is going to devote at least another day to the visit with Josef Weeder, and then that may be it for awhile for him until Liz and Anthony contact him to do wedding pictures.

With Mike having made the move to Milborough (unofficially), we have the end of the Mike / Weed era, where Mike is separated from and did not have to obey his mother. Like Liz, his independent days are done. He has been with Josef Weeder for 11 years now, and for the first time in 11 years (not counting a period in 2001, when he lived with Deanna pre-child and pre-marriage), Mike no longer is living close to Weed. Hopefully this will mean the end of Mike, the selfish prig, but I doubt it. Elizabeth’s behaviour has gotten even worse coming back home, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike's does too.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Today's For Better or For Worse explanation from Deanna about the Kelpfroths setting the fire did not match Mike's in the monthly letters. A little research confirmed fire scene investigation is usually not concluded that fast. So, neither Deanna nor Mike's stories match and they both insist on describing what happened, which they could not know from first hand observation. of them knows more about the fire than they are telling. Conspiracy theories started to come to mind, but I decided to bring in Sgt. Royalson, in case our anonymous poster decided to take the ball and investigate the Pattersons. That didn't happen, but I enjoyed the innuendo.

As for me and my house, we enjoyed a lazy Christmas. We sat around and played with toys and watched newly received videos. I got the new Weird Al Yankovic CD, and we were watching the videos to go along with the songs. My son said, "These aren't violent and bloody are they daddy?" I said, "Yes they are." I had never seen them, so I was just joking with my son and he didn't believe me. Then we got to the Weasel-Stomping Day song, where the video is done in claymation with very black humour on weasels being stomped. My son got up and left the room. Later on, he made me promise not to show those videos to him again.

Tomorrow's strip: We finally bring in Weed, Carleen and Lovey with their very first appearance together in the strip. We learn that they are essentially unscathed and the Kelpfroth's condition gets its first mention. No sympathy, just more Kelpfroth hate.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, or the Day Before That or the Day After—Whatever!!

Today’s strip in For Better or For Worse definitely falls into the category of happening in another universe. Seeing tomorrow’s strip for Monday, there is no way Sunday would fit into the continuity, particularly considering we see Merrie and Robin both being placed into the sleeper sofa and that is not where they are sleeping in Sunday’s strip.

Today’s strip was pretty benign and actually somewhat of a slice-of-life kind of strip. My son, when he was young, could sleep anywhere. He could sleep on top of a bed of hard plastic toys, which left indentations on his face and hands. So, I found it quite believable Merrie could fall asleep on the floor waiting for Santa. As such, it was difficult to give it a good snarking, aside from making fun of it not fitting into the storyline continuity.

As for me and my family, we are Christmasing at home for the first time in years. Normally we would drive to Texas and spend a week there visiting my wife’s relatives, but last year we did that and had a miserable time. So, this year we opted to stay home. It actually worked out well, because my kid’s church kids choir did their big production on Christmas Eve, and they would not have been able to participate had it not been for staying home. We had responsibilities only during 3 of the 6 Christmas Eve services held throughout the day at my church, so we felt we got off pretty lightly today.

Tomorrow is Christmas. As I think back over the year I realize I am quite fortunate to be a part of April’s Real Blog, an on-line community which is extraordinarily kind to each other and consists of a number of very talented and very funny writers, hosted by our incredibly consistent aprilp_katje. I count my blessings to be a part of it, and I wish you and all of yours a very merry Christmas.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I had predicted that Saturday’s strip would be a cliff hanger over the weekend, where we see Michael grab the laptop and faint in the smoke. Then Monday, we would see the firefighter rescue him. That would have been good comic strip writing, and we would get a focus on the rescue. Of course it didn’t happen that way.

I suspect that on Monday, we are going to get Michael, not at the hospital getting treated, but Michael and his family already at Elly’s house celebrating Christmas Day, and talking about how lucky everyone was. If it happens that way, then I can appreciate that the monthly letters for anticipating the extraordinary confusion over what is going on, since they are obviously written well before the strip was published. The letters covered what happened to the Kelpfroths, the source of the fire, what the sleeping arrangements are, the issues with the insurance, how work transportation was being handled with the Pattersons who only have one car, Deanna telling Michael off for endangering himself, where they were getting resupplied for their losses, and why Michael did actually know about proper backup procedures. There is no way all of that could fit in the strip, and so the letters are actually fulfilling their purpose, but moreover, the letters’ authors are covering the ground which the author of the strip is clearly ignoring. The part the reader would like to see is the emotional content of the story. In other words, we want to see Deanna relieved Michael survived. We want to see Michael upbraided by Deanna for his stupidity. In the letters we get that. In the strip we do not. It is the emotional content we are missing, and that was very evident in today’s strip.

Michael being carried down the fire escape is so tiny in the strip background, I could barely see it, even magnifying the strip 5X. You can’t see Deanna’s or the children’s faces when they realize Michael has made it. You don’t get to see Michael realize how stupid he is when he hands Deanna the laptop. What we get instead is the kids’ and Deanna’s face as they look at the fire alone, without Michael. Those panels spoke a lot, particularly when compared to the prior panels which were drawn so poorly and obscured the action.

In tomorrow’s strip, we have very clear evidence that the fire plot for Christmas Eve was conceived in the 2 weeks’ time delta between when the Sunday strips have to be written and the daily strips have to be written. There was some evidence of this anyway, when Howard Bunt’s trial conclusion was postponed until January, making his trial last a ridiculously long 3 months. If those kinds of changes are being made at the last minute, then there is some doubt as to how much of the plotlines for For Better or For Worse are fixed over the next 9 months before the strip's end. In order to tie up all the loose plot lines before September, things need to be organized, or it will be messy. Judging from tomorrow’s strip---expect messy. Very messy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

When You Know How the Plot Goes

Today on For Better or For Worse, the action was purely focussed on Deanna getting the kids out of the burning building, so my plan of continuing to narrate the action through Mike would not work. I summarized and hinted broadly that Deanna should say what happened. aprilp_katje did not pick up on this, or she did and decided not to do it. I don’t know.

The rest of what I wrote was dealing with the advanced notice of the January monthly letters. As I discussed yesterday, I had misread dialogue interpreting that Constable Paul Wright would be coming to Milborough over Christmas, so I had to retcon that back to the current scheme. The January monthly said that Grandpa Jim and Iris would not be joining the Patterson family for Christmas at their own choice, but I know plotwise, having Grandpa Jim there would mean a mixed focus between Mike’s disaster and Grandpa’s stroke and so Grandpa was removed to avoid the conflict in plotting. It is a cheap way out, and a more powerful storywriter would find a way to work both of them in together. However, I took advantage of it by having Constable Paul Wright appalled that a beloved mishomis (grandfather) would be excluded. Then I generally snarked other aspects of the Mtigwaki trip setup. It made for a very long Constable post.

Then Howard Bunt told the story of the fire through the perspective of the Kelpfroths. After seeing tomorrow’s strip, I will bet we will not see them in this strip sequence except by someone mentioning it was all their fault the fire occurred. The set of circumstances described in the monthly letter with nylon curtains and plastic lamp shades and napkin-filled soup bowls was so over the top, I felt the need to turn it into a conspiracy. It was too ridiculous otherwise. The implication is that Melville was drinking and smoking in bed, extinguished his cigar into a napkin-filled soup bowl, and then after the tacky furnishings were set on fire managed to make it from the bedroom into the alcove before passing out from the smoke.

Tomorrow’s strip:
Selfish Pattersons all around who don’t care for each other, but cares about material things. Deanna cares about her photography books, Mike cares about his laptop, Merrie cares that the fire is going to burn everything. No one seems concerned about Mike’s condition, except the firefighters. Not even Mike.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Monthly Letters

Normally I do monthly letter assessment of my characters at the beginning of the month, but not this time.

Constable Paul Wright

In Liz’s December monthly letter she said:

Christmas is going to be nice. I'll spend the day with my family, see as many of my old buddies as possible, then head up to Mtigwaki for a while to visit with friends. I'll be staying with Gary and Viv. Paul's going to come up to stay with them too, and I'll be able to see Jesse and Marg and Susan and everyone else. I'm really looking forward to it, and to the break from my family. Living at home again has been a trial in itself! I'm hoping that in the new year I'll be able to devote some time to finding an apartment close to where I work.

But in the December 7, 2006 strip, she said (without Paul’s responses):

Hello, Paul? I’ve been trying to call you! What’s happening with your transfer? Really? January?!! Can you come here for Christmas?...then…I’ll see you before New Year’s!

I had presumed Paul’s response was that he was going to come to Milborough for Christmas, even though in the August 29, 2006 strip, Elizabeth said:

Dear Paul-Great news! I’ve got a full-time teaching position at a school that’s about 16 miles from where I grew up! I had an interview today and came home with stacks of material. The teacher I’m replacing left so suddenly that nobody was prepared. This means I’ll have a schedule, predictable hours, and I can come to see you during the holidays. This will be the first time since I was a child that I counted the days until Christmas!

However, it appears that what Elizabeth had really planned was to spend Christmas Day with her family and then to travel to visit Paul and see him before New Years. So, his answer to the question:

Can you come here for Christmas? was probably No. I thought we talked about you coming here. Remember that old “keep my promise to Jesse” thing?

And his answer to the statement:

then…I’ll see you before New Year’s! was probably If you leave the day after Christmas Day, then I will meet you in Spruce Narrows 2 days after Christmas Day.

However, it appears that this has all still changed, because we know that the Mike and Dee invade Elly and John story is going to take all next week. Elizabeth will not be able to travel to see Paul until the week starting January 1. Consequently we have this from Liz in her January letter:

I'll be heading up to Mtig to visit in a few days! I wanted to see the village, the school, my students and my friends. I think I already mentioned that Gary and Viv are putting me up, and Paul will be picking me up in Spruce Narrows and joining me for a few days. I've called Jesse, and I've taken a shopping list from various residents so I can bring some stuff with me when I arrive. I may as well be useful!

The variation from the December monthly is that Susan and Marg are no longer mentioned. And also, that Elizabeth’s visit to Mtigwaki instead of just to visit with Paul is explained by saying Paul will only be there for a few days. Me, personally, if I had only seen my girlfriend for one weekend in the last 6 months, I would stay at her place and day visit Mtigwaki on some day when she had to work. This is one of the things I hate about the way things are constructed in these strips. The only reason Liz is going to Mtigwaki with Paul is that is the only way she can see Paul and Susan interact, which will lead into the big breakup. The only reason Paul is there for a few days instead of the whole time is so Liz can get comforting from Vivian and Jesse. If she went to Paul’s place in Otter County, and did a day trip to Mtigwaki from there, none of this would happen. She would have just enough time to visit and then it would be back to Paul’s place.

I need to go - I have to call Paul and make some more travel arrangements. I can't wait to see him. We have a lot to talk about - especially his transfer which he says has come through! I know he'll have some adjusting to do. City life won't come easy. Even though he's lived down here (police college, courses etc.) it's not the same as "making the move".

This section tells me that I did interpret the strip correctly, and Constable Paul Wright did get his transfer. The iffy part is the phrasing, “which he says has come through” instead of “which came through”. This leaves open the possibility that he has lied about getting the transfer, which actually wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, we see here, the first time Liz indicates that Paul would be making some sacrifice to move to the south.

We haven't talked about marriage yet. We have talked about our futures! I think my parents are totally accepting and will get along with his family really well. Paul's mom and dad are exceptional people - very involved with their community. They're good to me and I think they'd be wonderful in-laws...when and if. But - I'm not going into wedding mode. Some of my friends totally focused on gowns and gala events, maybe more than they focused on the seriousness of the ceremony. When I say "yes", it'll be because I know it's going to be a working, long-term partnership. The ceremony is secondary. Security and commitment come first!

This marks the first time Elizabeth has ever mentioned marriage and Paul Wright in the same paragraph. Elizabeth is making the distinction between talking about marriage vs. talking about their futures. This is a perfectly Liz-like statement. Back when Liz was moving back to Milborough, her future was the topic of discussion. But when Liz finally brings up marriage, she speaks of it in terms of how well her parents and Paul’s parents are going to get along. Clearly the lesson of the Sobinski – Patterson rivalry is not lost on her. Of course the problem is that Liz has never actually met Paul’s parents. She avoided meeting them in the December, 2005 strips. The closest you get is Liz's Letter, April 2006, where she says:

Boozhoo! I hope you all had a good March Break; I certainly enjoyed my week off. I left Shiimsa in Vivian's custody and went to visit Paul for a few days. It was the first time I'd seen his place or met his family, and it was both nerve-wracking and fun.

I like his relatives; they're noisy, affectionate and very informal. We visited his uncle's house for dinner one night and I felt like I blended right in. They made me feel very welcome, and didn't waste any time before they started teasing me. I like Native humour... the more the Ojibwe folks poke fun at you, the more accepted you feel. It helps if you don't take yourself too seriously to begin with, because you just can't get away with it! The ability to laugh at oneself is a vital survival skill up here, and we had a lot of laughs.

The only relative mentioned is an uncle. Paul is in Otter County. His parents are in White River. She visits Paul and meets an uncle. Paul’s mom and dad should get a mention, if they were met. The part of the January letter which mentions anything about Paul’s parents just tells me there was a visit we don’t know about. In April’s Real Blog, the letter writer talks about Liz visiting Paul in White River, so there is a possibility the letter writer believes White River is a made-up town in made-up Otter County. Unfortunately, White River is a real town between Toronto and where Mtigwaki purportedly is, so I don’t know what to make of it. If in letter-land, Paul lives in White River, the same town his parents live in, then Liz met his mom and dad on the same trip where she met his uncle, and mom and dad should be mentioned more prominently than some uncle.

But immediately after launching into why Paul’s parents would be a good match for her parents, January monthly Liz starts immediately backing off the wedding. She is setting up the reason she and Paul are going to break up. She will not view Paul and her to have a working, long-term partnership. Security and commitment come first! I dread the next part because Constable Paul Wright has been easily the best boyfriend Liz has had when it comes to security and commitment. Eric, Anthony, and Warren were all cheaters in their relationship. Lynn will have to retcon the way Paul has been portrayed to date, to make him a cheater too.

As for April’s Real Blog, I will retcon away Paul’s visit to Milborough and try to leave enough hints that he could be lying about the transfer or he could be spending time with Susan Dokis to make whatever happens work.

Howard Bunt

I had hoped the trial would be over by January, but it still lingers on. Liz says:

As much as I'd wanted to spend more time with my family when I moved back to town, it hasn't proven easy because of the trial and my job, but now they're right in the house and I plan to enjoy every moment.

I'm doing better now that I'm past my portion of the trial. There's still the final session and sentencing which I may or may not attend - and, there's still a minute chance I'll have to testify again. Man, they sure are giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. If the system is ever unjust, it must be rare! My counselor is still in touch and I still work with her, but my goal for the new year is to put the whole incident behind me - get it processed, experience the emotions required, get comfortable in my skin again and set my sights toward the future. It'll always be part of my past, but I've got a lot going for me and I need to concentrate on living my life again.

What this means to me is that since the monthly was created 2 weeks before the end of the month, and there are 6 weeks in advance for the weekly strips, the author of the monthly letter doesn’t know if Liz is going to the trial ending or not. January will be the third month of the trial, and I think the letter writer is actually snarking Lynn’s tendency to drag out plots over excessively long periods of time. I find the snark fairly amusing, considering we are in the midst of the fire plot which was started 1 ½ years ago. It sounds like Lynn is considering whether or not to go ahead with her original idea to have Liz and Anthony go back to the trial to hear the verdict and use that as yet another bonding moment. The reaction to using a rape trial as a romantic setting is just not working with even her most loyal readers, and I suspect Lynn has indicated she might not go that way and has not yet decided.

As for my character of Howard, he has essentially gotten the legs to last as an unfettered April’s Real Blog character for at least another month, until we see Liz going to hear the verdict or we read the February monthly letters mentioning the verdict. The other possibility is that Howard will never be mentioned again, kind of like the way things happened after the original assault.

Jeremy Jones – not mentioned anywhere. He is done, as far as this strip is concerned. At one point, I thought he might be a potential romantic interest for April, but the onslaught of praise for Duncan Anderson continues relentlessly on again. My favourite lines were:

Eva and Duncan are sort of together too, and they're soooooo cute. Duncan's a sweetheart, and he appreciates a very smart woman. Eva's got a good brain, and she's gorgeous.

If I didn’t know better, I would swear we were going to see a “Duncan likes April more than Eva because April is smarter than Eva” storyline. There has to be some reason why April is ladling on the Duncan praise month after month after month, and also a reason why she keeps talking about how romantic difficulties will break up their band.

A Duncan romance which breaks up the band would work very well for the more career-minded April, so she can concentrate on those science courses with her new boyfriend Duncan, who is also into science. I hope we get to see it, but we might not. However, with the Becky McGuire story completed, Lynn doesn't have anything left to do with April and school. So maybe...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mike Shows Us What Not to Do in a Fire

The on-line message boards which talk about For Better or For Worse took the strip to task today for what could be described as a text book example of how to get yourself killed in a fire. I wrote up a Michael Patterson post, which aprilp_katje so kindly posted for her Blog entry, where I basically played Mike as extraordinarily ignorant of fire safety procedures, because, I guess the point of the strip was that they are ignorant of fire safety procedures. aprilp_katje put a few extra comments pointing out some of the errors of their ways, followed by more from the_berserker posting as Duncan Anderson, who then indicated that Constable Paul Wright would have more to say. Technically, the good constable is a good constable and not a good firefighter, but it was not difficult to find a list of fire safety procedures on-line and in order to get some humour out of it, I decided to play him as the ultra good boy, who not only did fire drills at home, but ran his girlfriend through them at her home (back when she had one in Mtigwaki).

There are a number of real-life stories about people who did exactly what the Pattersons are doing and ended up dying in their house fires, and of course, there are others who didn’t. Even though the Pattersons should not be considered a good example of fire safety, they have been portrayed by Lynn Johnston as nearly completely incompetent parents whose children only survive through the intervention of older, wise women, like Lovey Salzman and to a much lesser degree, Elly Patterson. Today’s strip certainly fell with the boundaries of their parenting skills as have been shown so far. After all, these are the same knuckleheads who let their kids play on the stairs with the Trout tricycle, and who use Lovey Salzman’s home remedies instead of taking their son to an ENT when he had earaches. There may be some question in the readership of the strip and us who snark the strip as whether or not Lynn Johnston thinks of Mike and Dee as the World's Best Parents. My belief is that they cannot possibly have that title, because it would undermine Elly Patterson’s position as the World’s Best Grandmother. Ergo, Mike and Dee are always going to be idiots, who will need Elly’s help.

Tomorrow’s strip: Mike violates yet another fire safety rule,by going back for his manuscript. Will he pay the consequence for it? Not bloody likely.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


On all the message boards which discuss For Better or For Worse, the conclusions drawn were that where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is a problem with the Michael Patterson clan, the fault is the Kelpfroths. It is difficult to deny that reasoning, since Lynn Johnston telegraphs her plotlines literally years in advance, and she repeats the same plot material over and over in order to hammer the point home. Considering that the last collection of Lynn Johnston’s material I purchased covered only 9 – 10 months of material, it doesn’t make sense to stretch things out that far. The spread from the strip where the fire escape is pointed out prominently upon the Patterson moving into their apartment, (which led virtually everyone to believe there would be a fire) to the payoff 1½ years later, even in the graphic novel format, a reader would have to compare a few strips in one book to a strip sequence in another. I would tell Lynn Johnston to finish her plotlines within 9 months, in order for it to work within a single collection, but considering the whole strip is going to end in 9 months, there seems to be little reason to do that.

The other thing the message boards discussed was the possibility that it might not be the Kelpfroths. For example: Lovey Salzman’s minora falls over, or Josef Weeder’s hash pipe falls over, or Meredith experiments with making fires thanks to her conversation with Deanna about Santa and chimneys. With tomorrow’s strip we can eliminate Meredith as the culprit, but it is quite obviously going to be Melville’s cigars, for no other reason than we have had Melville the illegal smoker, beaten into our heads from day one of his arrival, including the strip where the fire escape was pointed out. By virtue of this same plotting style, we know Mike & co. are going to end up Elly’s house; and we know we will have another round of “Wouldn’t it be great if we lived here?” while they are staying there.

The unknown questions are:
1. How much damage will the fire do? Smoke damage, or complete destruction. I favour smoke damage, because it get the Pattersons out of the apartment, but it doesn’t kill anyone.
2. How will Mike’s manuscript for his book be rescued? This one has the potential to be a gloriously awful plot point and I hope Lynn does it up right, with her best (worst) writing.
3. Will this mark the end of the Lovey Salzman / Patterson relationship, or will it come later on? My money is later on, because I view Mike’s novel turning into a best-seller as the monetary impetus which will allow Mike to purchase the house from Elly and John.

The other aspect of this sequence is that it is guaranteed to take the whole week into Christmas. Even though in her monthly letter for December, Liz said she was going to go with Anthony to the Howard Bunt trial verdict, I suspect we may be completely through with the Howard Bunt trial, except for a mention of the verdict in Liz's January monthly letter. Since the fire will overshadow the appearance of Constable Paul Wright, I also suspect he is going to be a no-show for Christmas, so Elly and John can hammer in the "he doesn't support you" line one more time, a few days after Christmas, when the fire business calms down. We shall see.

Monday, December 18, 2006


In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston has decided that little Meredith is now smart enough to try to figure out exactly how Santa can get in the house if there is no chimney. Meredith has obviously not been exposed to the modern Santa-related movies like Elf or The Santa Clause series which explain Santa’s technological or magical marvels for dealing with chimneys. This is, of course, because Lynn Johnston doesn’t see movies produced any later than Gone With the Wind, as shown in this strip:

Otherwise, she might have made Meredith a little more pop culture savvy, but For Better or For Worse has been pretty consistently behind the pop culture times for awhile now.

My children have their own rituals for falling asleep. At one point in their lives, they used to like to have me read to them a story or make one up on the fly using their stuffed animals, but they are less interested in those things anymore. However, my boy, thanks to the sensory integration part of his Asperger’s syndrome, likes deep compressions, which is a nice way of saying he likes to be squished by the full weight of his adult father. That calms him down a lot of times for going to bed. My daughter has taken to giving me a daughterly kiss on the cheek (and I should point out it is only giving and not receiving. She thinks getting kisses are icky, but she likes giving them.) and then commenting on how rough with stubble my skin is at the end of the day, or if she thinks I stink from whatever I had for supper.

When I saw today’s strip, my thought was that the unusual forehead stroking motion was a long-standing means by which Deanna comforts Meredith. When Michael shows up afterwards, Lynn Johnston, in a very nicely done fashion, not only ties in the theme for the strip of “Magic” but also points out that Michael Patterson is so clueless with respect to his children, he does not know how to put them to bed when they are excited. After his daughter's 4 years of existence, Michael should know something about this most basic element of parenting. Lynn has been beating in this message that Michael needs to be more involved with his children over and over again, with the idea that once he gives up his Portrait Magazine job, he will be. The sad fact of the matter is that if he couldn’t pick it up in the first 4 years, he is not going to pick it up in the next 4.

Therein lies the greatest flaw in For Better or For Worse over the last few years. The participants in April’s Real Blog are extremely aware of the characters’ flaws. In fact, I don’t mind those flaws.

Michael is an inattentive father and is growing to dislike working in an environment where he has to follow the creative leadership of people he does not respect.
Deanna is a dumb, blonde, barely competent in her profession, and is slowly becoming a better mother.
Both Michael and Deanna deeply resent parenthood.
Elizabeth is afraid of emotional intimacy and runs away from any man who pursues her. She is also a barely competent teacher.
John could care less about his family (including his own mom and dad), and his marriage survives only from his willingness to do everything his wife tells him to do.
Elly is model of bad mothering, and typifies the type of grandmother who expects the grandchildren to be brought to you, and does nothing to accommodate others.
April gossips behind people’s backs and has no academic or extracurricular pursuits aside from her garage band. She does not even do the most basic things necessary to support her relationship with her boyfriend, like go to his games.

I don’t mind any of those flaws at all. It makes the characters real, because I know or have known people with these kinds of flaws. If the strip only had this in it, then it would be fine. The problem is the preachiness, the moral messages, the “I’m better than they are” sequences. That is what is killing this strip.

If you take this strip for example, Mike is shown to be a very poor father, so uninvolved, he doesn’t know how to get one of his kids worked up by Christmas to sleep. This strip, taken by itself, is actually pretty good. But, I predict, by the time the week ends, there will something praising Mike and Deanna for their parenting skills.

Tomorrow’s strip:
There is someone on the Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece FBoFW thread who has been begging for a fire for a long time, who is going to be very happy. We are finally going to get to the fire escape, foreshadowed over a year and half ago. Woo hoo!! At last!! Fortunately, it is just after Mike finishes his novel, so it can still become a best-seller. My predicted sequence is now:

1. The Kelpfroths are responsible for the fire, of course, and get their just due for setting it, which will either be:
a. Eviction for setting the fire in clear violation of smoking policy, or
b. The humiliation of having Mike save them from the fire, or
c. All of the above

2. Mike’s family escapes the fire down the fire escape and moves in with Elly, just in time for Christmas.
3. There were 2 spare rooms before Liz moved back in and now there is only 1, not leaving enough space for all of Mike’s family. Liz has a motivation for moving out. Now the question is:
a. Will Liz move in with Anthony temporarily, until Mike’s place is repaired? How quickly will she fall for Anthony, who is always there for her?
b. Will Liz move in with the soon-to-be transferring Constable Paul Wright? Will Paul be painted as not always there for Liz, because of this desire to move out of the homestead?

4. With Liz out of the house, and Mike’s place torched, Elly reconsiders John’s little train house as a retirement home, in order to make space.
5. Mike’s novel becomes an instant best-seller providing him the money to be able to purchase the old homestead from Elly and John and quit his Portrait Magazine job, so he doesn’t have to commute to Toronto any more.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Foob on Drugs

Lynn Johnston, or I should say rather her colourist, loves to use rainbows and vivid colours to indicate the music of the young. We had panel after panel of that with Liz and April wrapping presents with their eyes closed. I had to whip out a quick Constable Paul Wright post to point out that Liz had consistent taste in BOOMP BOMP music and then had Michael Patterson hint that April and Liz might have been using drugs.

When it comes to alcohol, Lynn Johnston definitely does not portray Elly and John as teetotalers, and in fact, Elizabeth herself has been known to have drunken weekends and seems to revel in them. I also thought that letting Michael have a roommate nicknamed Weed, was a pretty obvious indication that Mike was smoking marijuana in university, without actually showing it. So, when we see psychedelic colours and April and Liz wrapping presents in a less than precise fashion, some things can be inferred.

For me personally, it was off to church and then a matinee performance of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for their holiday pops concert and then back to church for a Bible Study and then home. I was quite excited to see that graytail088 and the_berserker and qnjones and aprilp_katje had accepted the drug use theme with great enthusiasm with several very funny posts across the board. I love when that happens.

Tomorrow’s strip: If the focus has shifted back onto Mike and family in the week before Christmas, then this creates a problem with the idea that Constable Paul Wright is coming at Christmas and we get to see the end of the Howard Bunt trial with Anthony. I am getting a strong feeling Paul is going to cancel on Christmas and Liz like the Michael Patterson / Rhetta Blum breakup, with a phone call. The other possibility is treating the story in flashback, but you still have to allow enough strips to set that up. I’m going with phone call.

Where’s There’s Love, There’s No Punch Line

Today’s For Better or For Worse ended the week’s sequence with a Hallmark moment. The idea that the final panel image could or would be on a coffee cup, was basically the theme of my snarking for today.

In my personal life, I sing with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus and we are in the middle of a series of Holiday Pops performances with guest conductor Michael Hall, who is currently the associate conductor for the Pacific Beach Symphony, but used to be the principal conductor for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I was very tempted to mention to him that Winnipeg was nothing but farm and cattle land, and it could not possibly have anything cultural in it; but I thought better of it.

Tomorrow’s strip: Actually not too bad a strip until April let’s loose with the poor final panel pun on rap music.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Iris the Lech

In today’s For Better or For Worse, I believe the idea that Lynn was trying to get across is that we are supposed to feel sorry for Iris. In fact, in the FOOBiverse’s Journal, the posters expressed some sympathy for Iris and some anger at Elly and company for not helping her out. Naturally, I had Michael Patterson and Constable Paul Wright snark for the other side. In other words, Jim is walking with a walker and he is able to dress himself, judging from the first panel, so how is he different from what he was before his stroke? He can’t talk.

The Howard Bunt trial I had been putting off posting anymore episodes of, because I couldn’t think of enough defence witnesses to fill out another week. I hope that Elizabeth and Anthony will go to hear the verdict next week, so we can finish this thing off and get Howard in prison before Christmas and the arrival of Constable Paul Wright. 2 month is pretty long for a trial where the accused grabbed the lady’s shirt.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I remember years ago going to an Administrative Board meeting at First United Methodist Church of Dallas, the church I attended when I lived in the Dallas area. The church was huge, and the Administrative Board met once a month over dinner to discuss church business with usually more than a 100 people in attendance. I was in the church singles group at the time, and I had been elected to the Administrative Board, I think, for no other reason than I was young and single and actually attended the church. The singles minister at that time was the Rev. Susan Monts, who has since died, but I remember her fondly. During this particular evening, she sat with me at one of the dining tables and there was an elderly couple also dining with us. Thus began one of the most surreal conversations it has ever been my privilege to witness. The Rev. Susan Monts struck up a conversation with the lady of the elderly couple and she answered every single question Susan asked her with the word “Yes” except each “Yes” had different tones and inflections to carry a different meaning, and moreover, these tones and inflections were actually able to answer most of Susan’s questions. This went on for at least a good 20 minutes, as I sat and ate and listened and wondered if the elderly lady would ever say anything other than “Yes.” She did not. It was not until I read today’s strip, an event which occurred probably 20 years after my dinner, did I realize the lady of the elderly couple must have had a stroke and was suffering from the same kind of aphasia Grandpa Jim is suffering, except with only one word.

As for today’s For Better or For Worse strip, I had Michael snark on Grandpa Jim doing a pun with 3 words in the last panel, Constable Paul Wright snarked the poor listening skills of the doctor in answering Iris’ question, and Jeremy Jones went on his caroling trip to visit Grandpa Jim and Iris in which (I think), he snarked the living daylights out of the Iris monthly letter for December. I was very amused with myself with the Jeremy post, even if no one else was.

Tomorrow’s strip: Dr. Foell, the fondling doctor, fondles Iris, but she likes it and asks for more. Like the strip when Iris was at the hospital and all over John Patterson, I suspect we have an “Iris needs some loving” theme going on the subtext of this strip. Sergeant Royalson (whoever he or she is) should have a field day with that, with the good Sergeant’s belief Iris is some kind of Black Widow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Grandpa Jim get Fondled and Drugged

Today on For Better or For Worse, Grandpa Jim breaks down and the comforting doctor grabs his knee, and says, “I can prescribe something to help deal with the depression.” Of course in the strip, he means an actual prescription, but the idea that it was not a prescription and had something to with the knee-fondling, spurred me on to post my long Jeremy / Zeremy Jones story twisting on this phrase. I couldn’t read Dr. B. Foell’s name on-line, but I could see it in the printed newspaper version. Then I spent a little while trying to find where this name came from. Foell is an actual German name and I found several people on-line with that for a last name, but no famous authors with the name B. Foell. A search across the yellow pages in Corbeil also yielded no businesses or doctors with that name. The altavista babelfish translator yielded no special meaning for the word Foell. So, the only thing I could think was that Lynn was using a last name similar to Be Fool, but that would be weak, even by Lynn Johnston’s standards. I used it anyway.

Tomorrow’s strip: Iris makes an appearance and the doctor reveals hither-to unseen Grandpa Jim abilities. So, instead of seeing this accomplishment displayed with doctor, we get to see it done for humourous effect of the punch line.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brains and Tonsils

In today’s For Better or For Worse, the doctor talks and Grandpa Jim turns it into a slam against politicians. First Lynn knocks the justice system and now politicians. I think she has an axe to grind, she just doesn’t know the first thing about grinding it. So, I had Mallard Fillmore drop in to give his opinion. Unfortunately Mallard Fillmore is so one-sided and misinformed in his political leanings, it is difficult to enjoy him. Instead, I decided to turn my eye to 2 of my favourite political satires which occurred in comics history.

For me the 1952 Presidential campaign of Pogo Possum was political satire at its best, which any person of any party could enjoy. In fact it was so well-written, when I opened up my Pogo collection to find it, I discovered that 54 years later, it was still laugh-out-loud hilarious. I know I have gotten into snarking the For Better or For Worse comic strip, primarily because there is a community here to enjoy while snarking it. However, I consider Pogo to be a vastly funnier strip. Walt Kelly (Pogo’s creator) wouldn’t just do a single joke in the final panel of the strip, he peppered the strip with jokes and asides. Lynn Johnston’s forte is “slice-of-life” humour. She should not venture anywhere near political humour and the weakness and awkwardness of today’s strip was yet more proof of that.

The creation of the Schmoo as means of political satire was one of the high points of Al Capp’s creation, L’il Abner. I only touched on a few points of the character, but it was so popular, other animated features or strips adopted the Schmoo as one of their characters, but not as the self-sacrificing eternal source of food and shoe leather, as the Schmoo was originallypresented.

I thought it was appropriate, both these characters would pop up to give Grandpa Jim advice on what to do.

As for me personally, my boy had his tonsils out today, and he did very, very well. I was so proud of him. Everything came out cleanly. He is off from school the rest of the week, and the doctor said only soft foods for him for the next 2 weeks. We hope that this will clear up his problems with sleeping.

Tomorrow’s strip: Another slice-of-life with Lynn Johnston. Old people take a lot of pills. My parents have reached the age where they are like walking drug stores. I am not looking forward to those days.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Return of Jim

In For Better or For Worse, the reappearance of Jim Richards confused me. It didn’t confuse me so much because I didn’t expect him to reappear, but because in my mind I had this timeline of the Liz – Paul – Anthony thing going like:

This week – Anthony and Liz go to the Howard Bunt verdict and something happens which makes Liz realize she is love with Anthony
Next week – The arrival of Constable Paul Wright for Christmas and the end of the Liz / Paul relationship.
Next week after that – Anthony builds up to proposing to Liz on News Year Eve

But now I have to reconsider the sequence, because Grandpa Jim in therapy looks to have the legs to go all week, particularly if we get to see Iris and the 2 therapy ladies at their apartment.

This means if what I predicted between Constable Paul Wright and Liz and Anthony occurs, then part of it may have to occur in flashback, like what was done with Warren Blackwood last Christmas. The other possibility is that Paul drops out of Christmas visit for some reason, and this spurs Liz on to break up with him for not being there for her. This could occur at a much faster pace than the face-to-face visit and could occur over the phone, like the Rhetta Blum break up. Rhetta style or Warren style. Grandpa Jim’s appearance is making me think it may be Rhetta style.

As for the strip themselves, they really have the appearance of a Lynn Johnston stroke retcon, where Lynn talked to someone who knew something about strokes. On April’s Real Blog (and also on the pretty much forgotten Melanie’s Lounge website), I thoroughly roasted Lynn’s lack of research on strokes. And frankly, I was amazed she would take the research so lightly, considering the average age of her audience and the likelihood that many of them would have had strokes. This week the backlash showed, as Lynn is having the unknown doctor spout off stroke facts, while Grandpa Jim adds a little humour. It was like when Lynn Johnston did the pow-wow strips, she had to have some humour in each strip, usually in the form of Elly Patterson. This week we have the doctor replacing the pow-wow Ojibway and Grandpa Jim replacing Elly.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Toolkit Redo

Today on For Better or For Worse, John Patterson goes shopping, gets confused, and buys a toolkit and lunch for some ladies. I had no idea how to play this one initially, then the thought occurred to me that I could have a lot of different characters having received a toolkit from John and the variations which would make it work. The reference to Puerto Rico and tortilla for Luis Guzmán comes from a conversation I had with one of my coworkers, who is from Puerto Rico and commented to me once that he never ate a tortilla until he came to the United States, because it was not a common food in Puerto Rico. However, because he was in Arizona and spoke Spanish, people assumed he had. Since John has taken so many Mexican vacations, I thought a toolkit with a tortilla would fit that situation nicely, even though the joke was an inside joke for me. My hope with all the character toolkit postings, the other regular posters to April’s Real Blog would take the toolkit giftings to heart and apply them in/appropriately to their characters. But apparently this was one of those days where the other posters had better things to do than play a toolkit game.

As for me personally, it was another big music day. 2 of the church choirs in which I participate performed in an afternoon concert in which my wife did a brief solo, and my kids’ church choir and my church choir did a number together in 2 worship services during the day. The kids did really well, and I was quite the proud papa. And my wife did very well also, even though she could not match the kids for cuteness.

There was not really any time to do any more posting, and considering the readership level of April’s Real Blog today, it would have been a waste of time. Sometimes it is best to save my energies for times when people are more active, although considering the days for Howard Bunt and Constable Paul Wright are fast coming to a close, so I hate not to use them while I still have a chance.

Tuesday this week, sees my boy getting his tonsils out. It should be an interesting week for me personally. My boy has had a surgery before (getting tubes put in ears), but he did not take them well.

Tomorrow’s strip: The doctor’s office that Grandpa Jim visits employs a male cheerleader, while the millions of elderly women who read this strip are remarking to themselves about how nice Grandpa Jim looks with his legs shaved.

Edited to add: qnjones came through and provided a toolkit for Becky McGuire. Thanks qn.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Fall of Elizabeth Part 2

Today on For Better or For Worse, Elizabeth tries a family meeting to get mom and dad on her side. With Constable Paul Wright, I attempted to compare the situation with an Ojibway Sharing Circle, which I remembered doing months ago when schmoosie was doing Liz. It’s scary to think I have been doing this long enough where I don’t have to look up the Ojibway references except to confirm my own memory. I had Michael Patterson compliment April on getting the better of Liz, and then he went on a tangent on how his wife doesn’t have any friends. Jeremy Jones talked about a party he went to and basically spent the party trying to give lead-in lines or plotlines to the rest of the ARB cast.

Tomorrow’s strip: Toolkits! Nuff said!

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Fall of Elizabeth Part 1

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Elizabeth and April regress in age and battle. It was infantile, I decided Beavis and Butt-head needed to make a return appearance. I did all those dialogues, except the one which did not have a website reference who was done by persons unknown to me.

With Constable Paul Wright, I was initially tempted to play him appalled that Elizabeth would get into such a stupid argument with April, when it occurred to me that he is probably fully aware of just how childish and temperamental she can be, if it wasn’t beaten into him when she arbitrarily decided to move back to Milborough. I found a website on Ojibway discipline of children, where it talked about using applicable Ojibway legends to teach lessons to children, but I couldn’t find an Ojibway legend about fighting women, except the one I quoted where “fighting women” meant “women who knew how to fight battles.” So, I went with that one, thinking it’s lack of application to the situation between Liz and April might be somewhat amusing.

Zeremy / Jeremy Jones couldn’t really do anything with the strip, except play off the John Patterson off-duty line and snarked his perverted December monthly letter with the thought I initially had when I read it, which was John was going to the grocery story to pick up skinny, wrinkly women. Just writing that line delights me.

With Michael Patterson, I went through his monthly letters and found that he reminisces about the good old days when he used to fight with Elizabeth. That worked with today’s strip pretty well, and then I snarked his Sheilagh story by having little Meredith read it. aprilp_katje gave me a good feed-in line to respond with Mike being proud of Meredith’s reading ability, and I was able to snark one of my favourite things from the world of public education, which is the qualification of readers in term of grade expectation. My daughter, in her reading evaluation at school, was told she was reading at a 7th grade level (she’s in 3rd grade), but I have had so many other parents describe their child’s reading level in terms of much higher grades, the evaluation is fairly meaningless to me. I remember being told the same kind of thing when I was young too, and thinking, “Wow! Those 7th graders are really stupid.”

Thanks to another feed-in line from aprilp_katje, I had Howard duplicate parts of April’s monthly letter describing Liz’s reaction from the Howard attack, for Winnie Kelpfroth being hit on by John Patterson.

Tomorrow’s strip: And just when you think Liz cannot get any stupider…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Paul Gets His Transfer / April Gets Hit in the Head

In today's For Better or For Worse Lynn Johnston had Liz convey a lot of plot information in an overheard conversation. The information conveyed appears to be:

1. Constable Paul Wright's transfer will occur in January.
2. Constable Paul Wright will get to visit Liz in Milborough at Christmas, which is before New Years Eve.

Lynn plot setups are so clunky, you can tell something will happen with Paul and Liz relative to Christmas, New Years Eve, and then again in January.

In April's Real Blog, I had Michael Patterson comment on the violence of the scene, an idea with which Jeremy continued. I had the good constable talk about his traveling preparations for his move. And then, inspired by qnjones' masterful Candace Halloran trial testimony post from yesterday, I launched into a Howard Bunt post talking from the perspective of Tina, the girl who along with Liz beat up Eric Chamberlain so long ago.

Tomorrw's strip: Liz and April suddenly get younger.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The End of the Poop (or the Poop Comes Out of an End)

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we saw one of the odder jokes that has been presented in the strip, and by odd, I mean, across the message boards, people were stymied in interpreting why the final panel of the strip was supposed to be funny or what it meant. I finally came to the conclusion that the hot dog was an important part of the puzzle, if for no other reason, a hot dog has a somewhat poop-like look in its shape, and it could cause Meredith Patterson to think that her body was a sort of food-to-poop transmutation device. aprilp_katje took the anti-Michael stance which is typical for April’s Real Blog April, so I decided that Michael Patterson would come to the conclusion that there was no problem with his kids and their understanding of poop, even though his explanation to Robin, overheard by Merrie, stank…and not just from its proximity to poop either. Then I had Howard drop in one of his patented, my aunt Winnie and my uncle Melville Kelpfroth posts explaining how they, and not Mike or Dee Patterson had straightened out his kids. I sent out the posts in reverse chronological order, so hopefully there was some element of surprise from reading Michael’s post and then reading Howard’s post from Winnie and Mel.

There wasn’t much Jeremy / Zeremy Jones could do with today’s strip, except comment that no matter how bad Michael Patterson is as a dad, Jeremy’s deadbeat dad is worse, which is true. Constable Paul Wright had to satisfy himself by making it seem that Elizabeth Patterson would be jealous of the attention Mike would get for paying the plumbing bill.

Tomorrow’s strip: I wrote up a late night post from Constable Paul Wright for this explaining away the just-announced-in-the-monthly-letter of Elizabeth going to Mtigwaki (Land of Trees) for Christmas with Paul. To have Paul get his transfer and then to have him visit at Christmas, where he will get to see everybody associated with Elizabeth, is not only a fairly substantial reversal of what was presented in the monthly letters for December, but it is a significant difference from the direction we have been seeing over and over during the trial sequences with Anthony Caine.

My late night post has made the assumption that Paul is coming to Milborough for Christmas, even though it could be interpreted from Elizabeth’s wording in the strip that her plans to visit Paul at Christmas, which she announced months ago, could still be in effect. Not to fear. If I am wrong in my interpretation, then I will retcon it away. The fact that the monthly letters spelled out Elizabeth’s Christmas travel plans so explicitly leads me to believe that whatever occurred during conversation could be reversed by a plaintive letter from Jesse Mukwa via Aunt Marg, or something to that effect in the strip.

I, however, do not believe for an instant that Lynn Johnston would spend months building up the character of Anthony Caine in Liz’s eyes for no good reason. However, I do believe the timing of Paul coming for a visit just before he would actually take that transfer is not a coincidence. My predictions are now:

1. Liz and Anthony get together again for Howard Bunt’s trial verdict and Liz realizes she is actually in love with Anthony and not Paul.
2. Paul comes down at Christmas and Elizabeth breaks up with him in favour of Anthony (qnjones should be excited. It would be a Warren Blackwoodesque type of break-up, which she predicted)
3. Paul cancels his transfer at the last minute and stays in Otter County.
4. Sometime later, Liz goes to Mtigwaki to fulfill her promise to visit Jesse Mukwa.
5. When she does, she finds Paul there with Susan Dokis and doesn’t feel nearly as bad that she broke up with him. Maybe she will even invite Paul and Susan to come to her wedding to Anthony or vice-versa.

There are several problems with this idea:
1. It would make Elizabeth look really bad if she broke up with Paul without having something reasonable to blame on him. The most likely blameworthy item of not getting the transfer is gone, and it would be difficult to catch him cheating with Susan Dokis, if he is in Milborough. I would like to think that Elizabeth would not possibly break up with Paul because he was not there for her during the trial, since her monthly letter seemed to understand the situation. However, this is the most likely reason and it is also a basis for comparison between Anthony Caine and the good constable. When Elly and John suggested this in the strip, the message boards went crazy. Imagine how it would be if Liz did the same thing and to Paul's face.
2. It would mean that John Patterson’s monthly letter prediction that Paul was from the sticks and wasn’t meant for Southern life didn’t come true, and John Patterson monthly letter predictions have been right on the money so far.

An alternate idea, which would reconcile the John Patterson monthly letter prediction issue would be if Paul does transfer to Toronto, but finds after a very short period of time, he hates it and wants to move back. This could cause a split, and still keep John Patterson’s monthly letter prediction intact. The problem with this idea is that it would take so much time for Lynn to establish this before September. She’s had Mike miserable with the Kelpfroths for 1½ years, and he still works at Portrait Magazine and he still lives there. 9 months would not be enough time for Lynn to pull Paul, miserable in Toronto, off. Some authors could do it, but not Lynn.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Cost of Ned

Today on For Better or For Worse, Michael explains what is the big deal about Ned Tanner and the plumber brings the bill. So, I had Michael on April's Real Blog explain how Lovey was similar to Ned Tanner (and there really were a lot of similarities). Constable Paul Wright complained about the cost of being Elizabeth’s boyfriend. Zeremy / Jeremy Jones told another Zapata Henderson story with similarities to the text of today’s strip.

Meanwhile, in my real life, the Red Cross came by work today to take blood. I have what are called “smart veins” or “rolling veins”, so that when I give blood, if the blood-taking person misses the vein, my veins don’t give them a second chance. The same could not be said of me. After jabbing around for a vein in my left arm, I offered my right and success was achieved there, although it took awhile.

Tomorrow’s strip: Hearing daddy’s lecture about toilets makes little Meredith think about her hot dog. Huh?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Everything Old is New Again

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Mike and Josef Weeder reverted back to their university days together. To honour this moment, in April’s Real Blog, I adapted the Mike’s December, 2006 letter text where he is the sleaziest with Meredith in his lap, into a Weed in Mike’s lap post. It translated surprising well, which is not too surprising since the relationship between Mike and Weed has its definite homosexual overtones.

The Constable Paul Wright post snarked on the idea that every obscure character in the Foobiverse is going to be seen in the next year. So, he took Elizabeth’s trip to Mtigwaki and declared she would visit everyone she ever met there, in order to attempt to get some glory from Mike. Jeremy / Zeremy did a poker joke.

Tomorrow’s strip:
1 week 1 day into this storyline, and I still cannot see what the point of it, except to resurrect Ned Tanner. I am not sure why it took over a week to do that.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Rain

Since I have been in Tucson, Arizona, it has snowed with some accumulation once and the snow lasted for maybe an hour. At the time, I experienced a different situation from Deanna in the today's For Better or For Worse strip, where my wife didn’t want the kids to go outside because it was too cold and by the time I finally convinced her to let them, the snow was gone. My wife was brought up in the Dallas, Texas area and has no idea whatsoever how much fun it can be to play in the snow. Whereas I was brought up in the mountains of western North Carolina, where playing in snow was one of the highlights of my growing up. So, I sympathize with Robin and Merrie in today’s strip, if only for the reason that they didn’t get to play in the snow. Of course, the difference with them and my kids is that given another week or so, Robin and Merrie will be playing in the snow.

For me today was church, performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, then Bible Study and that was the day. I had thought about doing a Michael Patterson post in response to today’s strip, but found that aprilp_katje beat me to the idea. So, I went for Jeremy / Zeremy Jones instead, and had him play with Zapata Henderson again. Skitch Henderson, listed as father to Zapata was the leader of the Tonight Show orchestra before Doc Severinson did it in the Johnny Carson days. I met him back in 1988 and 1990, when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Chorus (with whom I used to sing when I lived in Dallas) went to New York and did a holiday pops program with Skitch’s orchestra, the New York Pops, in Carnegie Hall. He was a very nice and amiable man, and had a good repartee with the audience, as I recollect. Florence Henderson, whom I listed as Zapata’s mom, was the actress who played the mother in the Brady Bunch television series. I’ve never met her.

Tomorrow’s strip: With the return of Ned Tanner, we return to Josef Weeder, only it hasn’t been that long since we last saw Josef Weeder. The important questions are:
1. Will this lead to a story involving Josef Weeder?
2. Will Lynn Johnston repeat her storyline with Josef and Michael going to visit Agnes Dingle, find her incapacitated and saving her life, thanks to Ned?
3. Will we ever see Carleen again?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Return of Ned

Ned Tanner returned to the strip, and since he has not appeared in the strip in over 2 years, we are guaranteed that he will have to be explained next week. This could in turn lead to contacting Agnes Dingle and the long missing Weed and Carleen, as they push through their final appearances in the strip.

I didn’t get to post much today. My children had a kid’s choir practice this morning, followed by my daughter’s birthday party (she’s 9) and then I did a performance as a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus doing Handel’s Messiah. Tomorrow is church, another performance of Handel’s Messiah, followed by a Bible Study at the church, so I anticipate another low posting day for me. Fortunately for me, tomorrow’s strip does not involve any of the characters whom I typically post, although Michael Patterson could say something about it.

Today I had Michael Patterson declare the return of his socks and Ned Tanner in one day to be the greatest day of his life. The fun part was listing the days he would mark as being his prior greatest days.

Tomorrow’s strip answers the question about why you don’t go to play in the snow unless you see it accumulate. You would think someone raised in Milborough and Burlington would know this, but Deanna led a very sheltered life, so maybe that’s the reason.

December Monthly Letters

As usual, I like to take the parts of the monthly letters that apply to my characters and see what they have to say.

John's Letter, December 2006

Adding to the chaos and tension around here, Liz is just finishing up with Howard's assault trial, but there hasn't been a verdict yet.

We basically have 3 weeks until Christmas in Mtigwaki. Lynn Johnston will have to do a little Weed / Carleen visit, since Ned Tanner showed up in tomorrow’s strip. Then probably we will see the verdict of the trial, and Lynn feeling guilt because she realizes she wants the guy closest to her, i.e. Anthony. Then it’s off to Mtigwaki for the breakup, just before or after Christmas.

I would have thought Paul, Liz's boyfriend, would have come down to be with her, but he seems to be staying away. I suppose he spends lots of time in court, so knows what a waste of time it is.

I already had Paul play this as John Patterson still angry over his speeding ticket as a reason for his court hate. By putting this into John’s mouth and not Elly’s (who says nothing on the subject) they are retconning the idea that Elly also shared this opinion in the strip, which she did. There is a chance to react to things, with the monthly letters. I have a feeling with the significant outrage that strip got, that the Lynnions are trying to back off that stance.

Liz's Letter, December 2006

We're in pretty constant communication, but I haven't seen Paul in quite a while, so it was very strange indeed to be spending days at the courthouse with Anthony. Most men wouldn't be happy to know that their girlfriends were spending entire days hanging out with ex-boyfriends having long conversations. Paul has been wonderful; he understands the circumstances and while he couldn't be here with me during the court process (because of his job), we talked on the phone daily and he gave me as much advice about the law as he could. I feel like I'm almost qualified to consult on the topic now! Maybe I should go into business�Liz's Assault Aftermath Assistance. That was a joke�a weak one, I admit. Still, LAAA has a nice ring to it. I just want to stick my fingers in my ears and sing LAAA LAAA LAAA until all the din swirling around in my head goes away.

Daily phone conversations. They are definitely continuing the idea that Paul is nice, at least from the perspective of Liz. If he is really talking to her on the phone every day, then starting a relationship with Susan Dokis who lives in a different city, would be difficult.

Christmas is going to be nice. I'll spend the day with my family, see as many of my old buddies as possible, then head up to Mtigwaki for a while to visit with friends. I'll be staying with Gary and Viv. Paul's going to come up to stay with them too, and I'll be able to see Jesse and Marg and Susan and everyone else. I'm really looking forward to it, and to the break from my family. Living at home again has been a trial in itself! I'm hoping that in the new year I'll be able to devote some time to finding an apartment close to where I work.

Time to break up with Paul and get all the Mtigwaki people in the strip for the final year. Busy, busy, busy! This has a feel which is much more like the scenario qnjones suggested for the break-up, where Liz and Paul just talk about how he doesn’t want to go South and they are not really meant for each other. So boring, but so Lynn these days. My dream of a Mike / Rhetta / Deanna style breakup is beginning to fade away.

April's Letter, December 2006

Which is understandable - I'd like to do awful things to Howard too, for what he did to my sister.

April plots revenge, but aprilp_katje has already retconned this one away.