Saturday, March 31, 2007

Even Fewer Friends Than Before

In last year’s For Better or For Worse entry for April’s 15th birthday, she went out with Eva, Duncan, Gerald and 2 other persons who have never been identified, although I was certain at the time, one of them was the new drummer. I associated them with made-up April’s Real Blog characters, Vicki Simone and Gordie Duroccher, which added the elements to Gordie’s character of wearing sunglasses and a beret. As it turned out Luis Guzmán was added to the band, and the other couple does not make a repeat appearance this year. April is now down to 3 friends. Who will be left, when she turns 17?

Friday, March 30, 2007

And Then There Were None (at the Party)

In today’s For Better or For Worse, April manages to get rid of Gerald and all appearances are she has gotten away with his visiting, because of the final joke of the last panel. It’s been an interesting week for April, because this week is truly her first week of doing something bad, and not just “talking catty about Becky” bad. There were dozens of strips like this for Elizabeth and Michael in their teen years, so I am quite gratified April is finally getting a turn.

As for snarking today, I had Howard hit up on some more Portrait snark. Mike’s monthly letters mentioned Martha McRae on several occasions and in one case a lunchtime meeting where the two of them played “What if?” Mike has mentioned Rhetta Blum a total of 0 times in his monthly letters, so the implication is that Mike still has some kind of emotions for Martha. Rhetta Blum ended the relationship with Mike, but with Martha, there were considerable forces at play to try to break him and Martha apart. I can understand why Mike might still have feelings. Back when the Mike party had been originally announced, I had written a letter from Martha McRae saying she would attend so long as Mike behaved himself. With the Howard post, it appears that Mike did not obey that restriction. I also implied that he had had more than one lunchtime meeting with Martha, which is something easily inferred from Mike’s monthly letters.

The other thing required was to retcon April’s Real Blog so that it appears as though Elly does find about April and Gerald. aprilp_katje practically dropped this in my lap when she said Elly and John were sleeping upstairs. Not only did aprilp_katje forget the location of Elly and John’s bedroom relative to the back porch, but it apparently slipped the mind of the great author herself when she had April’s voiced line in the back yard by the bedroom, and her thought balloon in the front yard. John Patterson delivers the final line to Elly, with no comment from Elly, so the strip could not have helped me more in my retconning.

The other addition areas to snark:
1. April’s 16th birthday song. Jeremy Jones gave a very kind review of it. The performance of the song was not unpleasant, but the song lyrics were so awful, no self-respecting 16-year-old girl could have written them.
2. The cover of the latest For Better or For Worse collection Teaching is a Learning Experience. A red-headed Caucasion boy and an Asian boy show up mysteriously and most of the girls do not have the long braids which appeared on the First Nations girls in the strip. If the appearance of these children was an editorial suggestion, so the book would appear more inclusive, it is ironic that such a change actually makes the cover of the book an insult to the First Nations people, as if images of their children are not good enough to sell a book, which is by and large about them. I remember when the Disney movie Pocohontas came out, and people complained Pocohontas looked like a model and was too pretty, the actor who voiced Pocohontas’ father was outraged at the idea that Native American women could not be attractive. I was reminded of that story, when I saw the cover of the collection. Naturally, I had Susan Dokis make a comment about it, even though I believe qnjones is officially signed up for that character. Sorry, qnjones.

Later in the day, aprilp_katje hinted that Michael Patterson should respond to qnjones’ Gerald’s post about “Like with Like” racial prejudice as a Patterson rule of operation. I know it is Lynn Johnston’s personal rule from the pairing of Duncan with Eva. However, there are parts of the Patterson story which don’t work, like the acceptance of Deanna Sobinski, who is from an immigrant family. Because of this, I think the rejection of Rhetta Blum and Paul Wright could well have been for religious reasons and not racial ones. I opted just to say Pattersons consider themselves to be better than everyone else, and using language which I found used to describe restrictions on Jewish wedding in Israel, substituted the witch of Corbeil as the final arbiter instead of the Orthodox Rabbinate.

Tomorrow’s strip: We seen it before, and it looks like it is self-contained and may not be continued next week.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

April’s Year in Review

March, 2006

March seems to be a good month for April. This month had April at home alone, being taken care of by Connie Poirier and we had her get scared of noises going bump in the night. After this she went to Grandpa Jim’s birthday party, and he finally got her moving on selecting new members for her band. March was a very productive month for April.

Grade: A

April, 2006

In this month, 4Evah discover that without Becky they stink, which is surprisingly honest. So, Eva Abuya is introduced in the strip, with her makeover, and Duncan Anderson immediately falls for her and her smirk. The month with April ends with April encountering Becky McGuire who insults her by giving her a copy of her CD, but fortunately April is comforted by Shannon Lake, who tells her about her imaginary apartment. There is some plot progression and original elements, but the Becky / Shannon sequence takes it down.

Grade: B

May, 2006

Eva and April explore their new relationship with each other, with cowboy analogies. Then John takes the Duncan and Gerald for an arresting ride. The sequence ends with the band changing its name to 4Evah&Eva. There is no real plot development here. Cowboy analogy Eva has never shown this kind of personality since then, and pun on the band name still causes me pain.

Grade: F

June, 2006

This month is almost April-free. April makes faces and runs away whenever Elly and John talk about burial plots. April fulfills her function as an irresponsible teen, but not much else.

Grade: D

July, 2006

Another month of April the annoying teenager. Constable Paul Wright comes in and April asks the same question she asks whenever Liz brings over a guy, “When are you getting married?” We have a Sunday colour strip where April and her gang go to the beach together without shoes and burn their feet. Then finally April shows a bit of wisdom by declaring she won’t read her brother’s book until it is a best seller. If only I had done the same.

Grade: C

August, 2006

April settles her affairs before going to the farm by having a conversation with her sister, and performing her annual kiss with Gerald. Then it’s off to the farm, where the main point seems to be showing April is a complete incompetent with animals, and to make a series of awful veterinary puns.

Grade: D

September, 2006

Elizabeth moves back in and her interactions with April include a sequence where April asks her what a subpoena is and where April pushes Elizabeth onto Anthony Caine. This is followed up by another Becky sequence, where April caves into Becky’s request for academic help, and both Duncan and Eva are shown to be inexplicably anti-Becky. The end of the sequence is April with Becky on the bus, where April seems to be in terminal slow-burn at everything Becky says. In the Sunday colours, Elizabeth teaches April how to study. Then the end of the month is everyone’s reactions to Grandpa Jim’s stroke, which is a sequence that does not age well. The Becky story is really old at this point, and April is shown to be stupid several times in a row in order to make others look better. However, I will give points for introducing the stroke storyline.

Grade: C

October, 2006

October is Gym / Jam month. First April is depressed by Grandpa Jim’s stroke and requires the help of Shannon as no one else seems to care about how she feels. Then we introduce the Hose-a-Phone sequence at the Gym Jam. I will give points for including Uncle Phil, but the otherwise the stories push the stupidity level way up.

Grade: C

November, 2006

This month has the end of the Gym / Jam with Becky’s band going haywire and the hug in the school washroom. The only other part with April is the Remembrance Day celebration where April makes a trite anti-war statement. A miserable month.

Grade: F

December, 2006

April and Elizabeth fight, with an actual blow struck by pillow with Elizabeth. Elizabeth attempts to call a family meeting to resolve the problem and fails. This month was downright stupid for April.

Grade: F

January, 2007

April receives the package from the firefighter and then points out to Elizabeth her wrong thinking about what is going to happen in Mtigwaki and Warren’s real intentions toward her. Then she feeds Robin dog food. April cries about living in the messy rec room, but is interrupted by Elizabeth announcing she had been dumped. For some reason, April then supports Warren in the dance of the Liz suitors. April is very much the emotional teenager in these strips, but they aren’t too bad.

Grade: B

February, 2007

April goes on her first date by herself with Gerald. Then we see April baby-sitting Robin and Merrie for the first time. This is followed by April visiting her Grandpa. Then she walks the dogs with John and comes to the conclusion Mike and Deanna can buy the tiny train house. Overall, a very positive month for April, with little to no plot repetition.

Grade: A

March, 2007

April has a very busy time at the mall and hammers in a lot of old “April is teenager” plotlines. April gets into a fight with her sister, calling her a Lard Butt after she calls her a Picky Face. She is comforted by Shannon Lake and has the beginning of the plot sequence which will end up being April have her first extensive makeout session with Gerald and will drink wine while underage. April has 2 days with the kids baby-sitting and does much better on one day than the other. A mixed bag. April drinking and kissing is good teenager stuff, the likes of which we haven’t seen in For Better or For Worse in years. On the other hand, the school sequence was full of clunkers with the same Shannon Lake sequence being done over and over again.

Grade: C

Crouching April Hidden Gerald

It occurred to me today, as April’s makeout session with Gerald was interrupted, that although much was made by Michael Patterson over Deanna Sobinski in those early strips, he was far too young to have ever had a makeout session with her. I don’t have the strips as proof though. When I read Suddenly Silver from our library there were strips which showed Mike having makeout sessions with Rhetta Blum and Martha McRae though. I wonder if Lynn Johnston brought Deanna back into the picture, so she would be able to pair Michael Patterson up with a woman she could declare in the strip was a virgin when they got married, and no one would be able to argue against the point.

In any case, when qnjones started pushing Gerald into his obnoxious mode of saying April had to stick with him because he was her childhood sweetheart, it occurred to me that I could make up the legal definition of the childhood sweetheart. So, I did an internet search for “legal definition of childhood sweetheart” and it found a website listing the “legal definition of genocide”. At first I thought this would be too far removed from “childhood sweetheart” to use it, but oddly enough, it fit much better than I could have ever expected.

Tomorrow’s strip: Elly is definitely suspicious of April, but she only has one day to find Gerald and lecture April, before Warren and Elizabeth arrive and Warren flies away with a future date in hand. It could be done in a day, and it would certainly make more sense to do it before the end of the week, so the plot doesn’t carry into next week; however, if it does happen tomorrow, then it will be awfully rushed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Adventures in Babysitting

Aside from recent For Better or For Worse strip appearances of April babysitting, and the January, 2003 strips of April babysitting Gordon and Tracey’s kids, the life of April Patterson, babysitter has existed almost entirely in her monthly letters. Just for jollies, I have stripped those out and to see what insights can be gleaned from those letter snippets.

The bulk of the babysitting notes occur in 2004. In 2004, Gordon and Tracey are still in their old house and Tracey works at the garage with Gordon. You can see those elements in April’s description.

April's Letter, May 2004

I am gonna be working mostly for Gordon and Tracey this summer. I will be babysitting (as usual) and now they're gonna let me work in the restaurant at the gas bar cleaning tables and working in the kitchen.

It is interesting to see a reference to the idea that young Meredith would be spending any time with Gordon and Tracey’s kids. I have often thought that Gordon and Tracey, having children, would have been much better best friends for Michael and Deanna than Carleen and Weed. Of course, considering the parenting skills of Michael and Deanna, that could be the reason they preferred Carleen and Weed.

April's Letter, June 2004

Tracey Mayes asked me if I would work for her again this summer babysitting the kids. They are so big now and lots of fun. Gordon put an above ground pool in their back yard last summer. We didn't have much time to use it before it was too cold, but it's warm enough now to use it because they have a heater for the water and a bubble cover to keep the heat in at night. Michael was there helping them get the leaves out and put fresh water in. I can't wait to see Meredith in a life jacket, playing in the pool.

The use of the rabbit for babysitting is mentioned only in this letter.

April's Letter, July 2004

I've tried to explain that Mom and Dad are totally experiencing the generation gap and that communication is important these days but they just don't get it.
At least when I babysit for Gord and Tracey I make some cash and even if I can't get a cellphone I can still buy other stuff for myself. Gord an' Tracey's kids are fun to watch - they treat me like an adult and listen when I tell them things. I play my guitar for them, and we go to the corner store and the pool and we play with Butterscotch a lot.

Here we get an indication of the extent of April’s babysitting and the only time she really complains about the Mayes children. She is essentially working as a summer childcare for the working Tracey and Gordon, while their kids are out of school. Paul would have just finished grade 1 and Rosemary would be 4.

April's Letter, August 2004

Babysitting is going well, and I'm making some decent coin even though it's really hard work watching little kids all day. Becky thinks it would be great to have a baby, but if she spent the day at Gord and Tracey's with me I'm pretty sure she'd change her mind. One of the kids will be spilling cereal all over the floor in the kitchen while the other one is jumping on the couch and flipping the channels on the TV. They're not that bad because they know that I'm the boss, but they do get really hyper so some days when it's not raining we go out to the park and run around and play on the equipment. It keeps them from tearing up the house and they get some exercise. I like to climb the big wooden fort thing at the park too, when there's no one around to see me. (Like good looking guys or anybody from school).

I stayed with Gord and Tracey while my parental units went to Manitoba for the week. It was nice to have a break from Mom and Dad, but it kind of wasn't a break since Paul and Rosemary wanted to play all the time, so for a whole week I was "on" for the entire day. I actually do earn what they pay me!

Becky's parents have been fighting all the time this summer, so she's been a total pain to be around. She's always mad or crying, and I guess it's okay that she's talking to Gerald. I'm not there to hang out with her, and he doesn't mind her moods. I still feel funny about them hanging around together when I'm babysitting all day, but it's not like I can stop them.

And finally a use for the money.

April's Letter, September 2004

At least I can use my babysitting money to buy things she doesn't really like, as long as they're okay for school.

At December, April still has babysitting money left.

April's Letter, December 2004

I've still got some Christmas shopping to do, and between helping out at the store and babysitting I'll have a bit of cash left over. I think maybe I'll pick something up for my friend Shannon.

The first indication we get the April is interested in babysitting Mike’s kids comes here.

April's Letter, January 2005

Mike got (from me) a bunch o' babysitting coupons and Mom and Dad gave him and Deanna a new vacuum cleaner, sort of a tiny one on a stick that folds up.

The only indication that April has babysat anyone other than Rosemary and Paul or Meredith, unless of course this complaint is about them.

April's Letter, May 2005

They don't seem to know how to relax anymore - some of the kids that I babysit hardly ever have a night off from their activities or classes, and their parents are just as bad. When you're a kid, you just need a couple of months to sit in a field and watch ants, or read a book or just do nothing.

Rosemary and Paul are 5 and 7 by this time, and apparently back to being easy.

April's Letter, October 2005

I don't work weekends anymore though, unless someone needs me to cover a shift for them. Or unless I'm babysitting, but Gord and Tracey's kids are easy to watch, and they go to bed early so basically I get paid to do my homework while they sleep. At least Gord and Tracey feel secure.

Here babysitting is used by April as an indication of her character, which is ironic considering the current storyline.

April's Letter, April 2006

It kind of upsets me, because I'm a good student and I babysit and I have a job and I've never mugged an old lady, you know?

And after a long gap, April is babysitting again and it’s Robin and Meredith and plenty of complaining and comparison to Rosemary and Paul. When I read this text after reading all the others, there is a definite change in attitude of April with regard to babysitting. It makes more sense now that she would throw her reputation as a good girl to the wind.

April's Letter, February 2007

I've been babysitting a lot; it's freakin' exhausting! I have NO IDEA how Mike and Dee keep up with those kids after working all day. They both look tired all the time - now I know why!!! It's impossible to keep them both in my sight unless we're in one room with the doors closed. Meredith walks so quietly that I never know which way she's gone. On the other hand, Robin screams so loud that the dogs will run and hide if he's crying. Yikes. They have so much energy, it's nuts. Gord and Tracey's kids were always much calmer; I guess that's just genetics. Still, I love being Auntie April. Reading to Merrie is fun - she's really smart, and she knows a lot of the words I point to. They both like building forts - we have a lot of blankets and a lot of chairs, so we make these huge "tents" in the living room and hang out there. I wish I was as little as Merrie again - she finds them roomy. Me, not so much. But it's quiet!

Tomorrow’s strip: It looks like April has gotten away with it, but never underestimate the ferreting skills of Elly Patterson, who will be so suspicious that April is not in bed by 11 pm on a Saturday night, that she will find the evidence she needs to condemn April and all before Liz and Warren get home on Saturday. I predict alcohol on the breath, wine bottle with 2 glasses, and Gerald on the back porch will be the giveaways.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gerald gets Comfortable, But Probably not Any More Than That

Another busy Sunday for me, as my church choir took its annual “Visit a church in the sticks and sing for them” trip. This year we went to Eloy, Arizona. It was the second time we had been there, and the last time was 2 years ago. The minister has actually done a fairly impressive job of improving things there. There were actually some kids there, and not just old people.

Then we went back home and I watched my team lose in NCAA basketball, a game they could have and should have won. It was depressing. A few April’s Real Blog posts and that was ARB for the day for me.

Tomorrow’s strip: A real shocker as Gerald shows more of his repugnant personality, but I am overjoyed at the shout-out to April’s Real Blog at the idea that Gerald would plan April’s loss of virginity so close to her 16th birthday. I can’t speak for anyone else, I think I can say for certain, in my high school when I was growing up, there were no couples who had been going steady for 4 years, who had not had sex. If Lynn Johnston wants to paint this story realistically, April and Gerald will do the deed.

However, the only thing I know for certain is that April will not be losing her virginity during this storyline. April is a good girl. Her worst offence to her parents is not making her own chicken wrap. She is at her worst when she deals with Becky McGuire, but even then she is just talking behind her back. Nothing is going to happen with Gerald, except they may break up. If that happens, we may finally get to see this strip's setup finally happen.

Reasons why the breakup might happen are:

a. Gerald calls the Special Need retarded (November 25, 2005).
b. Gerald values the band more than April's feelings about her Grandpa (October 2, 2006).
c. April has mentioned the difficult group dynamics of having 2 couples make up the band in her monthly letters in October, 2006; January, 2007.
d. April lusting over the music store employees in her March, 2007 monthly letter.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dependency, I Wonder About It

As my dad would say, “Old age sucks!” In For Better or For Worse, a visit to Grandpa Jim to look at old pictures with him, turns Elly’s mind to losing her independence and losing her memory. After seeing the “Whoa”ing, vampire, Warren all week; I would say that Lynn Johnston has already lost her memory about how her characters act.

However, the strip is an interesting perspective, and one I think every married woman needs to consider. Women live on average 6 years longer than men, so the prospect of being the last in the couple to survive is a real concern.

I notice, however, that Elly’s concern is that she will be dependent and lose her memory first. That is another real concern for Elly, because John can barely take care of himself at it is. If Elly were to be incapacitated for some reason, she would be in a world of hurt with John taking care of her.

In this strip, John is so uninterested in the goings-on, he doesn’t give any acknowledgement either to Jim or Iris—no hugs, no handshakes, and no waving. John doesn’t care, and Elly is starting through the mental process which led both of my sisters to divorce, i.e., they realized they didn’t want to be in old age with their self-centered husbands. That’s not the point of the strip, which is basically for John to say something considered being romantic, but which actually shows a lack of knowledge about Alzheimer’s.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cry Me A Quiver

In For Better or For Worse, poor Elizabeth expresses her desire not to have a beau because the last one left too many arrows. Ouch! The Nipissing First Nations people have to be smarting from that racially-stereotyped phrase. Something must have happened between them and Lynn Johnston for such a thing to pass by her. Ever since Liz left Mtigwaki, the storyline has taken an adversarial look at the First Nations people.

So, as Warren Blackwood does some major brown-nosing with Gordon Mayes, we are faced with what appears to be the new theme with Elizabeth i.e., I want to take a break from guys. Actually this is not a new theme with Elizabeth, because what is really at work here is Elizabeth's typical reaction every time a man overtly confesses his desire for her. She withdraws.

Take Constable Paul Wright for example. He professes his love for her and wants to move to be next to her. She moves away.

Take Warren Blackwood, the old one from university, not this "Whoa"ing vampire, suck-up Warren we have now. He takes a job in Vancouver and the relationship with Liz essentially ends until he shows up out of nowhere for her graduation. Does Liz seek a job in Vancouver? No. Then Liz moans and complains for months that Warren doesn't fly his helicopter all the way across the country to see her, but when he finally does, she shoves Paul Wright in his face and tells him he wasn't there for her.

Now we have Warren Part II. He confesses his interest in her, and the first thing out of her mouth is "I don't want a boyfriend."

Finally, we have Anthony Caine. He's so low key he's not even visible at the Mike party. Since the Howard Bunt going after, he has not said a single word about being interested in romance with Liz. Thought balloons aplenty, but no words. Therein lies the secret to wooing Liz. Never tell her you like her. Never express a feeling to her or ask for her feelings on things. The more emotionless you can be, the closer you will get to her heart (or whatever she uses for one). I can just see Anthony's proposal to her, "I am completely ambivalent about our long term relationship. If you are ambivalent too, then perhaps we can be ambivalent together. I think what my daughter needs is a mother who never expresses her feelings." Liz says, "I believe in my heart, if we are intended to get married, then the wedding will occur." Anthony says, "It's just faith."

Then the wedding is setup and determined without the involvement of the bride and groom, who look at each other on some September morning and repeat the romantic vows to each other. Anthony, "Well, Liz. It looks like faith put our wedding together and even put me in a tuxedo." Elizabeth, "Yes, Anthony. Thanks to faith we are going to be together forever...For Better or For Worse. Which one doesn't really matter to me. I am ambivalent. What's important is that my parents and my whole family are better than yours, and any children which may happen to spring from my loins are better than any you already have." Anthony says, "I agree with you completely."


Much to my surprise in tomorrow’s For Better or For Worse, Michael Patterson does not make a speech. Much to my anger, we are not seeing a parade of old For Better or For Worse characters at this party. Much to my shock Liz actually confesses she feels insignificant compared to Mike.

The most interesting thing about this sequence this week was the display of model pictures which represented Josef Weeder’s career. In the monthly letters, and in particular the Mike letters, Josef Weeder’s career was described as branching away from pure portraiture, to different styles of pictures. Yet in the strip, we have seen no evidence of it. Josef Weeder of the strip, is still purely a fashion photographer. Correction. fashion photographer and slumlord.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn was busy doing character assassination of Warren Blackwood as he lusts for models. I had hoped for more obscure characters to spot in tomorrow’s strip, but no luck. Josef Weeder gives Michael Patterson a congratulatory speech from the heart, but if you read it carefully, there is nothing there from the heart, unless you consider, “Congratulations on becoming an author” to be a heartfelt sentiment. It is easy to attribute that to Josef’s inability as a speaker, but considering that Mike has not really done a whole lot to deserve all this acclaim, the speech seems appropriate. The worst part is that we have at least until the end of the month before this storyline ends. The week we spent with the Liz farewell to Mtigwaki will seem like a pleasure cruise in comparison.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Leak of Confusion

Since the 3-31 strip was leaked yesterday, I felt confident that there would be no disparagement of Warren during the course of the party, but we are not one day into it, when Warren pops off a thought balloon lusting for fashion models. This is hardly a relationship-breaker, or Grandpa Jim and John Patterson would be divorced from their frequent leering at women; however, if you compare Warren’s thought balloons with those of Anthony (lusting over his memories of kissing high school Liz) and the spoken admiration of Paul Wright for Liz during the good days with him; you can tell Warren is on shaky ground for the long term. The real question now is whether or not Lynn Johnston is going to give us in the days until 3-31, motivation for Warren to act like the “Flying Now” fool over Elizabeth agreeing to see him again in a week. I would wager the answer is “not”. The two of them do not appear to be the least physically interested in each other, and to say Liz’s conversational skills leave something to be desired would be an understatement. She is like the Liz-bot. “I am so glad you could come with me tonight…tik…tik…Warren.” “Jo…tik….tik…has shot some of the best-known….tik…tik…models.” Even on 3-31, she is “I am too. I had a nice time.” She has the blandest, most generic and noncommittal lines imaginable. Somehow Lynn Johnston has gotten the idea that “nice girl” = “boring girl”. Fortunately in real life, that is not true.

Someone on the FOOBiverse’s Journal revealed that their local newspaper had printed up a strip from the future about Mike fumbling over making a speech at the party. I expected it would be in Wednesday’s strip, but that was not the case. At least one strip is going to be devoted to Mike, and I will probably spend my time, trying to identify the background characters from the Who’s Who in the FOOBiverse. I am anxiously waiting to see if Fiona Brass makes an appearance, since she is my favourite.

Tomorrow’s strip gave me the distinct feeling that Anthony Caine is not going to show up at the party. It’s early yet and he may appear, but after Liz / Anthony gatherings managed to occur regularly without any mention of Paul Wright, I think Lynn may do the same for Warren, where he does not see or is not mentioned to Anthony Caine. This would be another opportunity missed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Future Shock

Thanks to a gracious slip in providing a strip early, we can see the storyline about Mike’s party is going to run at least to the end of next week. Tomorrow’s strip tells us that if Gerald does come over to visit April, she has already managed to get the kids in bed before he gets there; but Liz’s arrival back at the house does not appear to be the arrival which will surprise April and Gerald.

I am really beginning to think that Lynn Johnston is going to drag the Liz / Warren / Anthony triangle out until the very last minute, which is going to make it difficult to do any kinds of wedding preparation storyline, or revenge against Thérèse storyline, unless it’s like the week of April at the mall where new characters popped up every day without any kind of resolution (Luis’ refugee background story, for instance). The odd part about the slipped strip is that Lynn seems to be turning the formerly mild-mannered and nicely-restrained Warren Blackwood from 2003-2004 into a man whose unbounded enthusiasm for Liz is starting to duplicate that of Paul Wright.

Playing Warren as so enthusiastic is going to march Lynn right down the same pathway she went with Paul Wright, where if she portrays him too positively (ignoring the creepy helicopter ride to Mtigwaki sequence), then she puts herself right back into the position where the fans are saying, “Why is Liz continually rejecting men who seem to adore her for Mr. ‘Expresses Feelings Only in Thought Balloons’ Anthony Caine?” We know the answer in advance is going to be Liz is a homebody and Warren travels too much. After exposing Paul Wright as a cheater, it would be unlikely Warren could be portrayed as a cheater also.

I really hope Anthony Caine will be at the Mike party, because Lynn has the opportunity to balance the newly-enthused Warren with the “increasingly more sedate with every appearance” Anthony. Lynn intentionally avoided any mention of Paul Wright to Anthony Caine, when there were many chances, so it is just as likely Anthony won’t be at the party, and the entire Warren cycle will run to completion without Anthony Caine knowing a thing. I will curse Lynn, if she misses the opportunity and does that.

The other possibility is Anthony’s Caine’s historic tendency to go off with other girls, when Liz runs off with other guys. In high school, Liz didn’t want Anthony to date while she was dating, and we could be heading back in this direction. Anthony sees Liz with Warren at the party, and assuming she is officially with him (for a number of good reasons), starts to see other women. Then Liz sees Anthony with other women, breaks things off with Warren, and declares her love for Anthony. With a little more than 5 months left to September, there is no way Lynn can tell a complicated story like that without rushing through it. It will be truly awful. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arizona State Chess Championship

That’s what I was doing for the last 2 days. It was my boy’s first state tournament in chess. He won 2 games, got a bye for the early Sunday game (church activity interference), and lost 4 games. I was excited he won any games, because my fear was that the state level competition would be so rough he would get brutalized in every game.

I did take my kids to see some Roller Derby, since we learned that my boy’s Pediatric Physical Therapist skates for the Furious Truckstop Waitresses. She was the star of the game, and my son was quite excited to know a sports celebrity personally.

As for For Better or For Worse, we get to explore the idea that seeing someone suffer with bratty kids is funny. This is a pretty common theme in Hollywood kids movies, although it is usually the father or father figure who takes the abuse, and not the baby-sitter. The thing I find amusing is that with this strip, since Mike’s family moved in with Elly and company, we have now seen more strips of April taking care of the children than anyone else taking care of them. I know that among polygamous societies, where there is more than one wife, there is a pecking order of certain tasks to be performed usually based on the order of the wife’s entrance into the family. I wonder if this is some sort of subtle thing where Lynn Johnston is saying that because April is now the youngest semi-adult female, raising the children now falls to her.

Tomorrow’s strip: Liz dresses to kill for Warren Blackwood at Mike’s party. I find it interesting that after a single appearance by Warren, he jumps to the top of Liz’s list for dates. Anthony should consider it a slap on the face; after all he has done for Liz by testifying at her trial and showing her his house and his kid, and going to the verdict with her. If Anthony is not at Mike’s party, too, then I will be shocked (and severely disappointed).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Back from Seaworld

My family returned from Sea World, San Diego, late Thursday night. It had been about 5 years since we were last there. We spent 2 days there, which is actually long enough to do everything you can do in Sea World, aside from the high dollar items like the Dolphin Interaction programs. I finally was able to release myself from a debt to my 11-year-old son, from the last time we were at Sea World. 5 years ago, we had purchased a Shamu popsicle for him and I had fooled him into sitting in what they call the “Soak Zone”, the first 16 rows of seats at the Shamu show, which Shamu promises to spray with water during the course of the show. He had sat through the Shamu show once before when he was 4 years old, but he didn’t remember it. After we got soaked by Shamu, he was the most upset by the fact the soaking had ruined his Shamu popsicle and he declared I owed him one. 5 years later, the debt was paid. Oddly enough, my children have gotten old enough, where they want to sit in the soak zone for the shows. It was a good trip. I have returned, but Jeremy Jones will probably not be back until Sunday. I take a certain delight in the idea that evil Jeremy Jones gets a March break with a real vacation, and April Patterson gets ditched by her parents every year.

Today’s For Better or For Worse seems to be ignoring the March break this year, by putting April in school. Lynn Johnston has been pretty good about doing a March break each year, so it was a surprise to see her miss this one. Maybe it will happen next week. In the meantime, she set the trend for Shannon Lake this week, leading into what will probably be a hug and a big farewell to Shannon in this strip tomorrow with 4 days in a row. Not counting her introductory year, Shannon’s appearances have run about 2 days in a row, and it is interesting this time, that it is Elizabeth and not Becky, which causes the need for the Shannon intervention into April’s life. I think this is the variation Lynn Johnston is going for. Last time, it was the callous and unthinking Eva and Gerald over Grandpa Jim’s stroke; and this time, it is erratic Elizabeth. All the Shannon appearances over the last 2 years have had the same basic premise though: Shannon shows up because her April sense tingles telling her something is wrong in April Land, and then tries to comfort her; while April tries her best to get away from her. I am afraid we are long past the point where April might try to talk to Shannon when there is nothing wrong.

My longish Howard post had a number of obscure references:

The Disgruntled vs. Gruntled groups at Portrait Magazine and the descriptions of the freelance work of Chris, Ben, and Harriet come from Mike’s letter March, 2006.

The names of Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, Don Cherry, Jean Vanier, Gen. Roméo Dallaire, and Stephen Lewis came from a CBC survey in 2004 of the most famous Canadians. I started from number 1 most famous and went down the list, removing any singers, actors, athletes and dead people. The joke is that Michael would not know who they were.

Pesach is celebrated on the Jewish calendar the 15th day of Nisan. This is an old, standard joke. “What day is Pesach this year? Answer: The same as always. The 15th day of Nisan.”

The on-line aspect of Portrait magazine has never been mentioned in any of the Mike strips or letters, so it is an obvious choice for magazine improvement, considering Lynn Johnston’s technophobia.

Mike’s description of the “sylphan lovely” advertisement and its use of an underage naked model and the money generated to pay for the publisher’s implants come again from Mike’s letter, March, 2006, a classic in Mike’s letters.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Takes the Grand out of Grandmother

In Today's For Better or For Worse, we saw something in the strip, which had been previously done in the monthly letters. I felt certain it was going to be one of those instances where the monthly letters did not match the strip, but much to my surprise it did. That thing was Elly Patterson expressing a desire to move out of her own house in order to escape from Mike, Deanna and their children.

In the March, 2007 monthly for Elly she said:

Elizabeth has rekindled something with her pilot. We don't know if it's a spark or a flame. Whatever it is, it should be kept away from the hand sanitizer. She has talked about getting an apartment but hasn't yet made the move to do so. There are days when I feel like looking for one of my own.

For years now we have had to endure Elly's comparison of herself with Mira Sobinski and her rationale that she is the vastly superiour grandmother of the two of them. I used to make the observation that Mira appeared to be much better, because she visited her grandchildren. However, in Elly Patterson's mind, that made her the worse grandmother. Elly's time with her grandchildren was limited to times when the grandchildren were brought to her for babysitting or holidays, or whenever they were sick and she would step in to help. Elly had a strict policy of noninterference with grandchildren who lived other places, and this was to be a sign she was better than Mira.

Nevertheless, Elly's grandchildren have been in her house since December 24th, and the only time when Elly Patterson has been in the same room interacting with her grandchildren was when they first arrived. The monthly letters even mentioned Connie Poirier taking care of the grandchildren, an idea which thankfully, never made it to the strip. 2 1/2 months later, and Elly wants to sneak out of the house with April. Elly is not putting the grand in grandmother with those kinds of actions or statements. And the odd thing about it is, that the projection of Elly as a grandchild-hater could have been so easily eliminated and used to Lynn's advantage. Just one strip with Elly taking care of the kids as Mike and Deanna come home from apartment or house-hunting. That's all it would have taken to make Elly look like a good grandmother again, and for Mike and Deanna not to look like such idiots for not going house-hunting already.

As for me, like Jeremy Jones, I and my family are going Sea World in California for our Spring Break. I leave on Monday and will be back on Thursday, and as usual, people can feel free to post as any of my characters, except Jeremy, who is out of town.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Different Person Every Day

Articles abound interviewing Lynn Johnston over the upcoming hybrid strip. I was quite surprised when one of them quoted Lynn as saying she didn’t know whom Elizabeth would pick. That’s complete baloney of course. The only thing odd is that Lynn would pretend she doesn’t know.

She seemed to indicate that the hybrids are going to actually contain storylines, but that they would be uncomplicated mild ones. This week with April has all the feel of a hybrid strip. I can see Thursday’s strip surrounding a sequence of old strips with Elly and April shopping for clothes, assuming that Lynn is going to group the strips thematically, to relate them to the surrounding material.

As for what I learned about the second banana characters today, the only thing obvious is that when Elly arrived on the scene, Eva left the scene. When it comes to fashions, Elly and April are like the blind leading the blind. April could have used Eva’s fashion sense. It is interesting that Eva would not be included in the Elly / April clothes shopping, when she was right there at Elly’s arrival. It makes me curious about the circumstances of her departure, since I have never actually seen Eva interact with Elly. Actually, when you get right down to it, I don’t think I have ever seen Elly interact with any of April’s friends. Certainly the days of Elly having heart-to-heart conversations with Candace, Lawrence, or Gordon are long over.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Last Hurrah of the Second Bananas

Monday we see Luis. Tuesday we see Becky. Wednesday we see Elly pick up April from the mall, which is interesting because we have seen April on several outings with her friends over the years and most times, they are shown walking to and from their activities. Each strip gives a little piece of information about the characters.

Monday, we learned Luis is from Mexico and comes from a family of refugees.

Tuesday, we learned April still has not let go of her Becky hate. I suppose it will serve her well when the hybrid strip reprints the strips from 2004 – 2007, and April gets to recount a heart-warming story of how much she loathes Becky. On Tuesday, we also learned Becky is alone at the top, meaning her fair weather friends have apparently all deserted her after the Gym Jam debacle. Considering those friends were by-and-large nerdy girls, Becky is probably better off. Oddly enough for me, I found Becky without the makeup and the flounced-up hair to be one of the more attractively-drawn women in the strip in a long time.

Wednesday, we learned Eva does not call her mother by her first name, and she is shocked April does. It’s subtle, I know; but it’s something.

The sad thing about these strips, is knowing the strip will be done in September. Eva has been around for 1½ years now and she is still a blank slate. But a strip like today, gives us a little taste of her character, and that is really all that Lynn has time for. More tragic are characters like Duncan Anderson and Gerald Forsythe, who have been around for maybe a decade and they have barely been developed more than Eva Abuya. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference. Lynn lavished her attention on developing and destroying Becky McGuire and didn’t have any time left for Duncan and Gerald.

With the appearance of Becky, I have noticed a trend, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The Becky hate story reappears along with Becky, as if that storyline was not ended last November. When Warren Blackwood reappeared, it was along with the Warren-Liz romance, which ended in December, 2005. How many more storylines we thought were ended, will repeat again before it is over? Personally, I hope Fiona Brass reappears and does a story just like she did before, except this time she is helping Elly prepare for the Caine/Patterson wedding.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different - A Heartwarming Story About Refugees

In For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston has suddenly decided to do character development on Luis Guzmán by making him a Mexican refugee. I think the refugee must have a special place in Lynn's heart. Duncan Anderson has long had the sweet hint of a Bajan accent, and Eva Abuya's last name is pretty clearly derived from the Abuja, the city in Nigeria. Aside from Gerald, April is then set up to be a girl whose associates in school are (1) one white, male boyfriend, (2) 3 families from foreign countries, (3) one special needs girl. Now I suddenly realize that Becky McGuire was not rejected for being a self-centered brat who had no consideration for April or April's band, but Becky was rejected because she does not come from a refugee family. It kind of puts a different perspective on things.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mike Just Isn’t That Stupid

Today in For Better or For Worse was a little tricky. I know the common perception is that Mike is afraid to leave the home of his mother to try home ownership, but the monthly letters made it appear that Mike’s resistance was based purely off his ignorance of mathematics. For the purposes of the FOOBiverse’s Journal, I went the through the math of it, and Deanna is right that they can afford to get a loan for $400,000 based on her salary alone. The big issue is going to be the down payment. In the monthly letters, Deanna seems to be counting on her parents forking over $20K because they did that for her sister when she bought her house. This is a key element because typically 10% down is required for family residence home loans. For a $400K house, that works out to $40K. Strip Deanna may be thinking $20K in savings and $25K in advance will cover it, but letters Deanna seems to realize that Mike hasn’t paid taxes on that $25K, so it won’t be enough to cover it after the tax bill. Ergo, letters Deanna’s parents are making up the difference. From my perspective as Mike then, and because the strip only mentions savings and advance, I decided that Mike was going to be unaware of Deanna’s parents’ monetary giftings for home purchase, because Mike has been adamant in the past to not accept money from the Sobinskis. The idea that the senior editor of Portrait Magazine, who would have to be aware of the money numbers generated by the magazine, would be unable to figure out if they had enough for a home mortgage, is stupid. I decided to use Mike as a voice of reason, because it is my belief, that Mike’s voice will end up being a voice of reason in this sequence. Elly and John are moving into the Stibbs’ place. It’s John’s dream home because of the lot size, and with only 2 bedrooms, it would be a very poor choice for Deanna and Mike.

susannamoodie informed me that her Zenia was the same Zenia as is in the Margaret Atwood novel, “The Robber Bride”. I must confess I have never read that book, so I wasn’t sure what to do with the information. I opted to create a situation which would adapt a scene I read about in the book where the 3 wronged women confront Zenia, and then let susannamoodie and the_berserker do what they want with it. I also brought back the concept that Eva is actually a member of a superhero family, by having her research succubae with her dad. The only super heroine succubus I could find was Satana, and she really had her start as a villainess and her turn as a heroine has been very recent.

Tomorrow’s strip: The reason why you don’t see John Patterson ever mention in the monthly letters the amount he and Elly are contributing to Mike and Deanna’s mortgage, is because ultimately, they will not contribute. Either John will be so angry about Deanna’s suggestion to sever away his train space he will renege on his offer, or they will be too busy with the details of selling their own place to Mike and Deanna and buying the Stibbs’ place to think about such things. When you get right down to it, John is living in a dream world if he thinks Deanna will let him put up 3 lots worth of train equipment in her yard, where the kids would playing.