Monday, March 31, 2008

Not Who I Am, But Someone Is

It sometimes odd to me that people will complain about things which are not really related to the way things were with them, in order to have a commonality with other people. I remember one of my university roommates was an odd fellow who had a strange and bizarre desire to make people feel as though he had been saddled with the worst dormitory roommate ever, that being me. Of course, this is a story I did not learn first hand, but at an end-of-the-year banquet for my dormitory, where fake humourous awards were handed out, and my roommate did, in fact, get the “Most Likely to Have a Better Roommate Next Year” award. I was quite surprised at the time. But after a few conversations with folks, I discovered that during the course of the year, my roommate had been telling stories about me, like…I never washed my clothes, or I would make such noise in the dormitory room that he could not study there or sleep there, or I would intentionally destroy things of his. At the time, it hurt my feelings quite a bit, because I thought I had been going out of my way to get along with the guy. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the guy wanted people to feel sorry for him, and that’s why he told these stories.

So, in today's For Better or For Worse we get Elly and Connie Poirier complaining about the usual thing: the lazy men in their lives. They didn’t carry the kids, or get the groceries, or do the laundry. The women had to have a job and do all the housework and it ruined their figures.

These things do not exactly match the history of the characters. Connie Poirier was only married to a guy for 2 years during Lawrence’s younger days. So, she really didn’t have a man whom she could expect to carry his share of the load for most of her life. Elly, on the other hand, was not only not expected to hold down a job, but John seriously discouraged it. As for Elly’s figure, anyone watching what she has been eating will not blame men for that. The characters are complaining, not because it was a situation that they had personally, but because they are trying to get sympathy from the readers, some of whom faced that situation when they were in their 30s. In order to enjoy the strip, you have to enjoy it on exactly that level, and not think too hard about it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not in Conventional Way

It’s been awhile since the issue of marriage between Lawrence and Nick has come up. In fact, the only recollection I have of the potential marriage between Lawrence Poirier and Nicholas Browne was in this letter:

Mike's Letter, December 2005

Like Gordon, Lawrence has achieved a lot in the years since we graduated. Taking over Lakeshore Landscaping was a huge risk, but with his partner's help, he has turned it into a thriving business. He and Nick have been together for several years now, and although they're married in practically every sense of the word, they have not decided to legalize their union with a wedding ceremony! His mom (Connie) told him she would support them if they decided to marry but she would not "give away the bride"! They will work up until January and then take a month off to travel.

Connie being unwilling to “give away the bride” is played up to be humourous in the letter; but I never was certain if Connie’s lack of support in a ceremony was the reason why Lawrence and Nick didn’t get married. We have this idea show up today for what may be the first time in the strip (although there may be some collection where this ground was covered prior to 2001. I am not sure when Nicholas Browne made his first appearance.)

Nevertheless Connie Poirier’s apparent prejudice rears its ugly head as she seems to disapprove of Lawrence participating in a wedding where there isn’t a white dress or tossing of the bouquet. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense. Even if Lawrence Poirier were a heterosexual, as the mother of the groom traditionally Connie’s participation in white dresses and bouquet-tossing would be minimal. I find it interesting however, that when Elly was the mother of the groom, buying the white dress for Deanna, was the one primary area in which she did participate in the wedding expenses. With as much fuss as the strip has made over Elizabeth’s dress over the last week, I suspect that Lynn Johnston has a little obsession in that area also.

I know that when this subject has come up before in forums discussing the strip, the idea of the same sex marriage has been a prickly one. On the one hand, one of Lynn Johnston’s great achievements in all her years of doing this strip was “Lawrence’s coming out” sequence and the Reuben award she got for it. Even in her more recent interviews, that moment and the killing off of Farley are marked as the story highlights of the strip. So, I find it interesting that this strip, which proclaimed Lawrence as gay, seems to be balking at the idea that Lawrence and Nick would get married. The common speculation has been that Lynn Johnston did not want to alienate her more conservative readers, and yet, how can you make that case, when she had Lawrence come out in the first place?

According to the For Better or For Worse website, Lawrence’s coming out is based on Rod Johnston’s brother Ralph, who later moved in with Chuck, the birth father of Stephanie Haskins, on whom Shannon Lake is modeled. The Meet Stephanie, part of the For Better or For Worse website, specifically says that Ralph moved in with Chuck, but no marriage is mentioned.

So, possibly Lynn Johnston could have Lawrence not married, because Ralph and Chuck aren’t married, and she is making art imitate life. And yet…if that were the case then why are a white dress and a bouquet even being mentioned?

Every Day a Celebration

Today’s For Better or For Worse strip is not too bad. The final panel sentiment is a realistic one for someone turning 87.

Unfortunately, it suffers from the same problem many of the For Better or For Worse strips do: Elimination of a realistic plot for the sake of a joke. By having just John and Elly there visiting and Elly bringing over food to eat, Lynn is trying to give us the impression that it is just a visit, so we can be surprised later on to learn that this is Jim’s birthday. Of course, this set up causes problems. You have to ignore the fact that April would want to come to a birthday celebration of her favourite grandparent and since she lives with John and Elly, she would come. But if April were there, in addition to John and Elly, it would give away that this is anything but a standard visit; therefore she can’t be there, even though she should.

As for me it was a busy day today and a good day for a celebration. My daughter qualified in a Regional Qualifier chess tournament to participate in the Arizona state chess tournament at the end of next month (my son qualified in an earlier tournament). Then she played her first softball game in the girls 10 and under, got on base 2 times, stole 2 bases, and actually scored a run. Her team lost, but she had a great time.

As for me, this week has been filled with preparation for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Chorus’ performance of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings Symphony. We had our first performance tonight (and another one tomorrow), and I was uncertain how the audience would react to what is essentially a movie soundtrack performed with projected illustrations from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy on a screen behind the choir. They loved it, and clapped for a long time at the end.

Finally, my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has had an excellent day for its men’s and women’s basketball teams; each of them beating Louisville to advance to the next round of play. Sorry, Louisville. Not really.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who is That?

As predicted, the whole sequence of this week in For Better or For Worse is set up for no other purpose than to get Grandpa Jim to think back on the day of his marriage to Grandma Marian and draw comparisons between her and Elizabeth. However, I never would have predicted that the artist for this strip, when drawing Panel 5, would be unable to copy the dress design from Panels 1 or 2 into the panel with Grandma Marian depicted on her wedding day. Without that duplication, the whole dress sequence falls completely apart to anyone with the ability to look from Panel 1 and 2 to Panel 5. Now you have the questions of:

1. Is the dress Liz wearing really Grandma Marian’s?
2. Where are Grandma Marian’s glasses?
3. Who is this woman with Grandpa Jim?

Actually, the real question to be answered is, “How low does your personal artistic integrity have to go, before you are too lazy to copy a picture of the dress that is in the same strip, when the whole storyline depends on it?” I would say pretty darn low.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Iris and Grandpa Jim Know

As Lynn Johnston whips this For Better or For Worse plot along at a breakneck speed, thanks to the fact this is a drawn and written medium, I find I can still take the time to delight in the little things. The little thing for me is the look of outright horror on Grandpa Jim’s face in the final panel. I don’t know what facial effect Lynn planned for, but when you raise the eyebrows, open the eyes, and put a big frown on person’s face; it is not happy, surprise you are getting, but shock and horror. I also like his overly-long Mr. Fantastic right arm, but the look of horror is what does it for me. OK. I will add that in this panel, the idea that Mike, Deanna and Iris have the bland facial expressions of clothes dummies helps quite a bit.

As far as preposterous goes with this storyline, we get to add the now, Mike-stated idea that Liz fits into the same dress Grandma Marian did perfectly (as if Mike would know). Then Liz, with the dress still on, jumps in the car and hauls Mike and Deanna over to Grandpa Jim’s place to show him the dress. Anything missing there? Calling in advance to make sure this is a good day for Grandpa Jim and that he’s awake? Calling in Elly or April to handle the kids, maybe? No, none of that logic stuff belongs here. Liz has to inform each member of the family she is engaged and have the Grandma Marian dress fully accepted by the end of the week. Damn the torpedoes! Foob speed ahead. Those kids are just going to have to fend for themselves.

This has been a great week. Each strip has been even more preposterous than the first, and the characters are more and more acting like people required to say lines, no matter how out of character they are. Liz’s speech running over the last 3 panels is a classic. Let’s break it down.

I wonder what Grandpa would think if I decided to wear it.
There’s no question mark, so she is stating that she would like to know this piece of information.

I should ask him first.
I think she means to ask his permission to wear it, but she does not state that explicitly.

He probably won’t remember what her dress looked like…it was such a long time ago.
Liz secretly hopes that Grandpa Jim’s memory stinks, so she can wear the dress without having to ask his permission. After all, he can’t complain about something he can’t remember.

Or…perhaps it all feels like yesterday.
Liz has presumed from Grandpa Jim’s expression of horror, that he remembers things from 60 years ago, like they were yesterday. It’s also possible he is befuddled, has mistaken Liz for a 26-year-old Marian, and plans to give her a big kiss. The more reasonable answer is that Liz has not yet told Grandpa Jim that she is engaged or that she is just trying on Grandma Marian’s dress; so he thinks that Liz just got married, he wasn’t invited to the wedding, and she's come over to let him know what happened after the fact.

Deanna and Mike Know. Liz Learns About the Dress.

First off, a note to our commenter Mrs. Polly from yesterday’s Blog comments that she can see today’s strip does not include April teasing Liz back but, as I predicted, shows an entirely different venue. Lynn Johnston’s stories about Liz insulting April are nothing, if not predictable and almost always one-sided.

Speaking of predictable, in the presence of Mike and Deanna, Lynn Johnston is not messing around. In one For Better or For Worse strip we get:

a. Michael complimenting the ring
b. Liz’s introduction to, her wearing of, and asking permission of Grandma Marian to wear her wedding dress.
c. The dress fits Liz perfectly.

Lynn Johnston is not even waiting to draw the characters having any kind of small talk, before getting to this point. “Here’s the Grandma Marian dress. Try it on! Faster! Faster!” Not only that, but the dress doesn’t look the same as last February, especially the sleeves and the neckline. Lynn Johnston, slow down!!! We know where things were going the moment Deanna found that dress, but the characters need some motivations to make it believable. If you are going to jump straight to the final conclusion, you might was well just write Liz getting married in tomorrow’s strip.

Here are a few examples of things which need explanation:

1. Deanna found the dress, cleaned the dress, and put it in a nice box with a window. Why did she do that? She didn’t know in advance Liz was going to need a wedding dress. Lynn Johnston may have known, but Deanna did not. There should have at least been some conversation with Elly about what Deanna found and then Elly giving permission for her to keep the dress, store the dress or display the dress assuming that Deanna has an obsession with antique clothing or something to explain this behaviour of hers.

2. Likewise, Liz did not know about Grandma Marians’ dress either. She had to have some idea in her head about getting to choose a dress for her wedding, like Deanna did, and might feel some resentment that Deanna and Michael are pushing this thing on her. After all, she didn’t get to pick her engagement ring. However, there is not a word about this. Instead, she worries about offending Grandma Marian, of all things. Who knew Liz had a fear of the retribution of the dead? Not me. Where does this fear come from?

3. Mike appears to be there for the whole clothes-changing process. My sister would have made me leave the room and yet Mike is there before and after. Why is this?

Without these little details, the wedding story will seem like a race to the finish, with Lynn Johnston checking things off her checklist as she goes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

April Knows

Today’s For Better or For Worse shows us that April Patterson does know that her sister is engaged to be married. I had an expectation that Liz would eventually have a time with April, where they would talk about marriage and Liz would invite April to be one of her bridesmaids, if not her maid of honour, considering April is as close as Liz has to a best friend these days. However, I never expected that not only would Liz not ask April to be a bridesmaid, but that Liz would take this moment, which should be a great moment of happy bonding between sisters, and pick this instant to insult her sister without any sort of provocation. A good 5th panel response by April would be, “Oh yeah! He may be ignorant, but I bet my husband will say he loves me when he proposes to me.”

When I first started snarking this strip, there was an element of holier-than-thou to the strip, with the way certain characters were judged by members of the Patterson family; but this last year, we have seen holier-than-thou turn to out-and-out meanness. At the Shawna-Marie Verano wedding, Elizabeth and Candace and then Elizabeth and Dawn were quite mean in their comments about the wedding. There was also the Mira Sobinski prayer length strip on Christmas Day, where the Pattersons thought mean thoughts about Mira across the board, except for Grandpa Jim. There was Anthony playing the chopped off thumb trick on his daughter and also threatening her with a crying Santa, if she didn’t go along with what he wanted. There was Elly and Iris talking about Grandpa Jim acting about 5 years old right in front of him. Then there’s today’s strip.

Lynn Johnston needs to retire this strip soon. If she keeps this up, then the Pattersons are going to start making other comic strips characters look nice in comparison, like Rat from Pearls Before Swine or Bucky Katt from Get Fuzzy or Catbert from Dilbert.

Monday, March 24, 2008

John Knows, but Does April Know?

I love the way John Patterson describes Anthony as Elizabeth’s choice in today's For Better or For Worse. Back around February last year, John Patterson’s approach to Elizabeth’s love life seemed to be pretty much along those lines. Here’s Elizabeth with all these guys to choose from, and whether she will choose Boyfriend A, B, or C was a subject for debate and perhaps even betting. We make jokes about Liz and Anthony being in a marriage of convenience; but John Patterson has been putting forward that idea for a long time, even in front of Liz.

Then as an add-on line to make sure you that you know how Dr. John Patterson thinks about those things, he tosses in the line “two down and one to go” which shows he will be just as cavalier with April’s wedding as he is with Liz’s.

The man could care less about his daughters, and could care less if anyone knows it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Elly Knows

Do you remember those old Hollywood movies where there would be a stream of glamourous girls who would descend stairs that reached to excessive heights, supposedly as a part of a stage production (at least that would be the idea behind the film), but which were too enormous to ever be on any real stage? Well, apparently Lynn Johnston does, as this is the image which ends the final panel of today’s For Better or For Worse strip, in order to make a pun on the phrase “one step at a time”. It’s a funny image that most of Lynn’s older audience will get.

As for the rest of the images, particularly the very plain second panel head picture of Elly, they show that this strip was extensively drawn by Laura Piché, Lynn Johnston's assistant who supposedly only draws the backgrounds. It is a definitely match to Laura’s background character style of drawing.

In January, Lynn Johnston went away from her every other month new and reprint style to an every other week style; but from the end of February we have had solid new stuff. I wonder if this means that we are headed into a month of reprints again, or if this is the sign that Lynn is going to take us with solid new stuff all the way to September. Considering there are 5 months there, that would be 2 ½ months reprint and 2 ½ months of new material, if the hybrid method were used. That doesn’t seem like enough new material to adequately cover the subject matter left to be covered, so my hope is that there will be much more new stuff in there.

The other possibility that occurs to me, especially from looking at the art over the last month is that it looks like Lynn’s influence on the art has decreased significantly. The physical character of Elly, especially in today’s strip, does not look like Lynn Johnston art in any of the panelsl. That is the case for a lot of the art in this whole engagement sequence. However, there are moments, like the face for Elizabeth as she says, “Payback time” or Elizabeth’s silent full face panel just after she became engaged, that look like Lynn. My impression is that Lynn may be doing what they call “breakdowns” which is just general sketching of where things go on the panel, and then letting Laura Piché finish them out, with the exception of some of those Elizabeth big head panels.

My guess is that by letting Laura take over more and more of the art chores, then this allows Lynn Johnston to continue to get that vacation time she was enjoying so much with the hybrid. My hope is that she will continue this method all the way through September (since she said in a few interviews back in January she was dropping the hybrid); but their continued appearance in the Sunday strips is throwing me off. Laura is getting better at the art and imitating Lynn Johnston’s style. She still has issues with perspective and art basics. For example, the female character in the last panel has a very long body for her head size. Nevertheless, I find that the idea of plot progression with the modern characters and Piché art is far preferable to me than the reprint strips.

Storywise, things are still pure Lynn. I cannot imagine anyone else producing an anti-love story like this one, particularly knowing that with a largely female audience, there are many of them which would prefer something more romantic from Liz, the ingénue of the strip. However, there is a possibility that this may change up a bit. In today’s strip, you see Anthony move to the back seat in wedding planning as he says absolutely nothing and goes to silhouette for two panels. From here on out, my guess is that the wedding is an Elly and Liz show. I certainly hope that is the case.

I remember in my own wedding planning how I discovered that my opinion weighed in behind that of my wife, my wife’s mother, my wife’s father, and my wife’s step-mother. My great moment of independence was when I had to put my foot down and inform my wife’s step-mother that she was not picking my groomsmen for me. As for everything else, there was a social change at the time that said that the groom should be involved in the process, so the ladies would occasionally ask my opinion and then after a few laughs and a pat on the head, would go on with what they wanted to do in the first place. Considering how traditionally Lynn Johnston plays with the writing in this strip, I expect to see a lot of Anthony in silhouette between now and September.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Easter time for a church choir singer is a pretty busy time and I will be busy from the earliest part of the day until well into the day with various and sundry church services. I have always thought it was a curious phenomenon that Easter, moreso that any other day of the year, is the time when people come to church in droves with the number of people almost doubling the average attendance from the rest of the year. At my church, I expect the parking lot will be packed, and there will be people parking in the dirt next to the street all the way down the road to the church. That's how it is on Easter.

Today's For Better or For Worse from 1980 reflects that particular curiosity in the form of young Michael Patterson. His parents are startled by the question, but it is a pretty good one. If a person's religion is important enough to come on Easter, then why come only on Easter or Christmas Eve (the other well-attended day)? I would figure if your religion is so unimportant to you that you would only come two times a year, then why would you bother to come at all? It's obviously something that you don't want to do, and could care less about.

In interviews, Lynn Johnston has expressed a dislike for religion due to being fondled by an adult when she was in a church youth choir (as I recollect), and certainly if her character of Elizabeth is any indication, her religion is based more on fatalism ("It was fate we were brought together, Paul or Eric") than anything else. Considering how her career was essentially handed to her, it is easy to see how she might come by that belief. Nevertheless, the Pattersons have had an occasional strip (and by occasional, I mean that the one in 2007 is the only one in the on-line archive going back to 2003) sending them to church on Easter Sunday and the joke is invariably about how one of the younger Pattersons doesn't understand something very basic about church, in the vein of Kids Say the Darnedest Things. Certainly that was the case for last year's Easter strip, with Meredith asking why the minister had not talked about Jesus meeting the Easter Bunny.

Back in 1980, Lynn Johnston just starting out strayed from that idea for her first Easter Sunday strip and did a strip which could be looked on as a criticism of the Patterson parents and their church-going, with young Michael actually appearing to enjoy the experience. At the time it was published, I can see regular church-attenders liking that strip quite a bit. As it is being republished today, I can see people tired of the Pattersons' holier-than-thou attitude over the last few years enjoying the strip for entirely different reasons.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Can’t Believe (Well, really I can)

1. I can’t believe that a public school teacher has enough time in her lunch hour to go ring-shopping, and that she would choose such a time to do it, when she is going to be rushed to get back to school and will have to make a snap decision. However, I will grant that this could be something I just don’t know about teachers in Ontario. Maybe they have huge lunch hours, or maybe the school where Liz teaches is conveniently close to a jewelry store. When I went through this with my wife, she picked the ring after doing much research about all the different kinds there were and I gave her as much time as she wanted.

2. I can’t believe Anthony is the one to pick out the ring, although this would definitely make Elizabeth the anti-Thérèse. I also notice that once again he asks permission. “Can I show you what I like?” Say, Anthony. Have you already scoped out this store and the jewelry prices, because it sure seems like you have?

3. I can’t believe a selling point is the fact that the rings don’t need to be sized. Good thing Liz and Anthony have average finger sizes, or they would never get a ring.

4. I can’t believe Lynn has portrayed the salesman as a nonplayer throughout this process. I think it has been a long time since Lynn has been in a jewelry store. Jewelry salespersons are not usually mutes.

5. I can’t believe the final panel joke compares the quality of jewelry production to an upcoming marriage. I hate to break it to you Anthony, but pick up trucks are made to last. Jewelry is usually fragile and requires some maintenance. That is actually a better metaphor for the realities of marriage, but I suppose not this contract marriage we are seeing

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Miss the Monthlies

It is at this point where I miss the monthly letters of the For Better or For Worse website. Apparently Dawn Enjo got married and we missed it and Elizabeth’s participation in it. I was personally looking forward to seeing Shawna-Marie and Elizabeth make fun of Dawn and her wedding, as Elizabeth and Dawn did of Shawn-Marie’s wedding last June.

The last we heard about Dawn’s wedding in the strip was this one, where Elizabeth just says it is next year.

In Liz's Letter, July 2007, she said:

Dawn is getting married soon - she lives in Ottawa, which isn't that far from here.

That's it. However, if we had a monthly letter still, we could have heard about the wedding in gory detail after the fact and a little travelogue of the sights and sounds of Ottawa to boot.

Aside from missing those monthly letters the thing I find the most surprising is that the first person we see Elizabeth Patterson tell about her engagement is not Elly Patterson. That is a slight of the highest level. It makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston is going to write a story around that, or if this is just another indication of how unimportant Lynn considers marriage to be these days.

I am trying to remember if my wife considered asking people to be her bridesmaids for whom she also was a bridesmaid was payback of some sort. I don't think she did. I know the bridesmaids may think that way when they see the bridesmaids dresses Liz will pick out (but they will soon feel sorry for her when they see her ratty, 60-year-old wedding dress); but I seem to remember my wife going to great pains to try to get a bridesmaid dress that met the ultimate quality of “I would wear this dress again.” My wife did not actually achieve that feat, but at the point of presenting the dress design to her bridemaids, she did honestly believe it to be true. When I heard her say those words to her bridesmaids, I told her she was officially a bride, because only a bride would be able to say those words and believe them.

My wife did not consider it to be payback time. She considered being asked to be a bridesmaid an honour and she worked pretty hard at the weddings where she was a bridesmaid to help the wedding go off smoothly. In fact, my wife personally contacted all her bridesmaids to ask them individually. This e-mail method Liz is using, would only be a last resort for my wife.

Of course, now that I think about the way Liz behaved at Shawna-Marie’s wedding, “payback time” is perfectly in character. And if Liz behaved the same way at Dawn’s wedding, I think I have a good idea why Liz has to resort to e-mail to contact her. Dawn may be still mad at Liz from her wedding and decided to stop returning her calls. The real question will be if Dawn and Shawna-Marie are good enough friends to put Liz’s bad behaviour behind them and accept the honour graciously. Let’s hope so. I can’t wait to see Dawn and Shawna-Marie both gush over Liz’s wedding and say, “I wish my wedding could have been like this.” That would be perfect.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anthony: Portrait of a Timid Man

So far in For Better or For Worse we have had from Anthony, these romantic lines:

1. I wonder where we’re going. I wonder where this will lead. But let’s take it slowly.
2. Should we discuss marriage? I think we’d be good partners. Then…we could say we’re engaged.
3. Elizabeth and I were talking about getting married someday.
4. I think everything’s going to be fine. We just can’t be in a rush. Should we look for a ring?

I think that Lynn Johnston is trying to portray Anthony as a man so scared and damaged from his ex-wife, Thérèse that he second-guesses his every move and fears that Liz is going to get upset as he moves down the path to marriage. Possibly Lynn thinks his passiveness is cute like a puppy, instead of aggravating.

In a little bit, we will get Anthony saying, “Should I look for a tuxedo? Should I pick out a best man? Should I tell your parents? Should I tell my parents?” It’s a part of the overall theme of this sequence of “I can trust Liz and Liz can trust me” that started with the appearance of Warren Blackwood showing trust issues for Liz and started with Anthony mentioning the fact he couldn’t survive another divorce showing trust issues for him.

I know that the “trust” issue is near and dear to Lynn Johnston’s heart, but if get much more of this out of Anthony, I would hope Liz will check his pants and see if Thérèse took his manhood with her as part of the divorce settlement. Once she agreed to be engaged, I had hoped that this would put an end to Anthony’s annoying timidity.

On the other hand, if you consider Elizabeth Patterson and the way she has treated her boyfriends in the past (especially Paul Wright), Anthony could have some legitimate concerns. He may be testing the waters of matrimony with her at each juncture, and making a point of saying that he is taking it slow, for no other reason than to avoid putting pressure on the Liz who usually puts distance between her and guys who overtly say they like her. This makes more sense when you think about it. Anthony should have no problems in “trust” issues with Thérèse considering his behaviour toward Elizabeth all during his marriage showed little concern with Thérèse’s feelings or trust. However, past strips have also shown that Anthony has carefully observed Liz and is very aware of when and whom she is dating, even when she is in university or Mtigwaki. In that case, I would say congratulations to Anthony, who may be annoying, but he seems to be walking pretty well down the treacherous path of matrimony with the skittish Liz.

In the meantime, let me give kudos to Lynn Johnston for this dialogue:

Should we look for a ring? Yes, I’d like that very much.

Romance dialogue just doesn’t get much stiffer and formal than this without putting in some “thee”s and “thou”s. Congratulations, Lynn Johnston.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Letter from Françoise


I miss you. I wish you weren't so busy all the time.

I had a tea party with Daddy and Elizabeth. They never played with me before. It was fun.

Elizabeth is going to marry daddy. She said she was engaged so she gets to be my friend. I don’t think she has many friends. I know how to make friends. You don’t say, “I’m going to marry your daddy. Now I’m your friend.” When she and daddy took me to the park, she didn’t want to play with me. She just wanted to sit with daddy. Sit with daddy, sit with daddy, sit with daddy. That’s all she wanted to do.

She said she wanted to be my friend. I asked her to play pretend tea party and she did. It was the very first time. And daddy played too. I had to tell him not to eat the cookies. They are just pretend. He had to go to the doctor last time.

I had to tell daddy what to do. I told him to pretend making a fire. I didn’t want him to use a lighter, like he did last time. I said I was putting baby to bed like you do. I didn’t tell Elizabeth to do anything. She is a friend, so she’s the guest. Like you say, “You don’t make guests work, Françoise.”

Then Daddy said, “Thanks”. I got an idea. I said we could pretend we’re a family. Daddy is the daddy. I’m the momma. And Elizabeth is the baby. That’s more fun than being a guest.

I got to go,

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mistaken Impressions

Sometimes reading For Better or For Worse is like entering a land with customs and beliefs very strange to me. It was easy to make fun of Elizabeth and Anthony’s unloving contractual proposal as simply the manifestations of a poor story-teller, but then Anthony mentioned the “love” word to little Françoise, so there was every evidence that Lynn Johnston considers a proper proposal to be like that of a business contract and “love” should not be mentioned.

It happened again in today’s For Better or For Worse strip. I honestly thought yesterday’s business of Françoise being afraid of losing Elizabeth if Anthony and Elizabeth marry could not possibly be the way the characters had thought, and it was just very poorly worded. Well, much to my surprise, Elizabeth is actually addressing that exact issue with Françoise and telling her that she and Anthony are not going to lose their friendship, “not ever. No matter what.” In other words, Elizabeth is essentially saying, “No, Francie. Even though your parents fought like cats and dogs when they were married, doesn’t mean that I will do the same when I am married to your father. We are going to still be friends.” How bizarre. I am having a difficult time fathoming this thought process.

Then Elizabeth continues the line of reasoning by saying that now she is going to marry Anthony she gets to be Francie’s friend too. Aside from two Sundays back, when Liz demonstrated Patterson eating behaviour to Francie, I had often thought that Liz’s standoffishness with respect to Francie was simply poor story-telling on the part of Lynn Johnston. Most normal people wooing a single parent, try to woo both the parent and the child. And here we find that it was Liz’s intent all along not to do that. In other words, if Liz was not engaged to Anthony, she did not consider it to be appropriate to try and be Francie’s friend in addition to Anthony. But now she is engaged, she gets to be Francie’s friend too.

Francie has the good sense not to respond to such a ridiculous line of reasoning with anymore than an "Uh-huh".

Hidden Motives and Responses

I think what Lynn Johnston is trying to do in this sequence in For Better or For Worse is work her way up to a one-on-one conversation between Elizabeth and Françoise, where Elizabeth tries to explain to her what their relationship will be after she and Anthony get married. However, in the meantime, Lynn has chosen to describe the necessity for this conversation in terms that are baffling.

1. Liz says she does not want to take the place of her mother.

At the outset, I don’t have a problem with this statement. This is a typical statement in divorce/remarriage for stepmothers to tell their stepdaughters. However, back in December, Liz had this whole big deal about how she was going to be patient and wait until Françoise came to her, as she was coming to Anthony (and as she went to Thérèse in the mall). This does not sound like the expectation of someone whose only ambition is to marry Anthony and be a “good friend” to Françoise. After all, Thérèse apologized to Elizabeth last December for even shopping in a mall, where Elizabeth might be there with Françoise. That sounds like direct replacement to me. Moreover, the whole theme of what constitutes a home in this series flies directly in the face of this idea. As we have stated before, when Anthony said he had no home, he meant he didn’t have a wife at home to take care of the children and run the household. Liz does not plan to take the place of Thérèse, and yet, she will be the one taking care of Françoise and running the household. Without any definite scheduled time with Thérèse other than “when she has time”, Elizabeth will effectively be the mother.

2. Anthony says Françoise knows that Liz is a good friend/ 3. Anthony says Françoise is afraid that she will lose one of us (Anthony or Elizabeth)

How would this happen? Usually when a young woman says she has lost someone to marriage, that means that the person, because they are married, now ignores or has no time for the young woman anymore. If this is the case with Françoise, I can believe that she might be afraid to lose Anthony, but to lose Elizabeth makes little-to-no sense at all. The only time we have been shown Françoise with Elizabeth one-on-one was 2 Sundays back with the sloppy sandwich-eating.

What we have in both statements is the elevation of the importance of Liz from a person who hangs around Anthony waiting for a proposal, to a person who has had enough interaction with Françoise for Françoise to actually care if Elizabeth is a part of her life or not. It has a lot of the same feel as the elevation of the status of Elizabeth when she was a teacher in Mtigwaki to the status of someone so important to the town they gave her a special spirit name and a huge farewell party. This was after we saw Elizabeth have a very limited interaction in the community; so the response seemed to be overly generous. Likewise, for Elizabeth to have this kind of relationship with Françoise also seems overly generous.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cycle of Abuse

I remember when I was in university and I had a sociology course which briefly discussed the nature of abuse in the family. From this course, I clearly remember being given an example of dad hits mom, mom hits kid, kid hits family dog. Of course the sociology course went into more detail about how when the kids get older or bigger than mom, then she could get abused by her own kids. All of these were fairly horrifying to me, in my very innocent upbringing. If only I had read today’s For Better or For Worse comic strip back when it was originally published, then I would see the humourous side of family abuse.

It is a disturbing part of our culture that at one point, the idea of abuse in a family could be considered a point of humour. There was Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners with his lines to his wife Alice, "Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!" and "One of these days, Alice, POW, right in the kisser!" There were moments when Lucy of I Love Lucy would say she wouldn’t do something for fear husband Ricky would hit her. And in more recent years, Homer Simpson of The Simpsons is known for trying to strangle his son, Bart. However, even more disturbing than For Better or For Worse participating in this part of our culture, is the idea that the creator of the comic strip, herself a victim of abuse as a child, would choose this particular subject to illustrate back in 1980 and moreover to reprint in 2008.

There is no physical violence in this reprint of For Better or For Worse and there is one crucial area of the story that would be very unrealistic in my family. When the book is taken from Lizzie, she takes her anger out on her doll. When my daughter was that age, she would have screamed bloody murder until Elly or John came to see what happened and forced Michael to give back the book.


Lynn has been checking off the checkboxes these last few weeks in For Better or For Worse

Wedding dress found – Check
Remind readers who Rudy and Candace are, so they won’t be confused when they show up at the wedding – Check
Warren Blackwood character assassinated - Check
Anthony and Elizabeth engaged to someday be married – Check
Everybody loves Anthony and Elizabeth together – Oops. Oh well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Francie and Liz = Playmates?

I am not sure what to make of little Francie. She has been aware in the past that Lynn is taking attention from her father away from her, but she seems to be slow on the uptake that Liz plans to take over as her mom.

1. When we first had little Francie together with Liz, she asked Anthony if she could keep her, as if she was a stray dog they could adopt.
2. Francie went with Anthony and Liz to the Patterson barbecue, but she was pictured as with Anthony solely and not even playing with the other kids.
3. Then we had the whole jealousy over Liz getting attention and the business with Thérèse at the mall, where Francie ended up hugging Liz. However, Liz was almost a complete nonplayer in that business. She barely said a word as the drama played out between Francie and Thérèse.
4. There was the Christmas Dinner preparation, which was mainly Anthony playing his severed finger trick.
5. On Sunday, she said she didn’t want Liz to grow up so fast after she showed her eating habits.

When I review all these Liz and Francie interactions, there is not a one of them that puts Liz in a parenting role. If anything, a babysitter or a walking companion in the mall. There is no sense of authority. Given this, it makes perfect sense in today's For Better or For Worse that Francie would not equate Liz with her mom and that she would be sleeping with Anthony, where mom used to sleep. At some point, I hope Liz mentions to Francie that she will be Anthony's wife and her stepmother, instead of this "live with you forever" business.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Engagement

The Art

“Ha!” I thought as I saw Elizabeth Patterson’s face in the final panel of today’s For Better or For Worse. That is a Laura Piché face if there ever was one. In the fourth panel, the face appears to be Lynn Johnston’s work, but the neck and body appear to be Piché, especially with the awkward ostrich neck body-to-face connection. In the first panel, Anthony’s head does not fit evenly between his shoulders, and the overly, cross-hatched line work, which makes the shadow under his arm look more like a spiderweb than a shadow has the Piché markings. I don’t really blame Laura Piché. She has no training in this area and the agreement she had with Lynn Johnston (and mentioned on the FBorFW website) was that Lynn was drawing the characters and she was drawing the backgrounds.

The Storyline

Obviously Anthony has not thought about asking Liz to marry him in advance. We see no ring. No kiss. No “I love you”. No romantic moment. In fact, Liz’s Yeeaaaaahh! makes it look like they just saw the Toronto Maple Leafs score a goal.

More importantly, we see no planning whatsoever. If anything, what we have is the idea that Warren Blackwood’s appearance truly is the motivating factor to force Anthony to talk about marriage, and the only thing he has to say about it is: We’ve been friends for a long time, so I think we should get married.

I had have had some friends like that. When they were in their high school years, they actually said something to each other like, “If we’re not married by 25 (or some age), then we promise to marry each other.” The guy got married a few years before I did, so that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, when Anthony tells Liz about how they have been friends for so long, I am reminded of those two. The difference is that my friends who made that agreement never intended to keep it. It was one of those things you say when you are young and foolish.

In the mind of Lynn Johnston, I suspect this whole lack of preparation is supposed to be another indication of how plain and simple Anthony is. How did you get engaged, Anthony? “Well, it just happened”, he replies. As Mike and Deanna’s wedding was sophisticated, Lynn is showing us that Liz’s is going to be more homespun and more domestic and that includes the engagement itself. Thérèse might have demanded a ring before the engagement was official. Warren may have planned the engagement moment in advance. However, this is not Anthony and Liz. They are meant for each other, because they are both so unsophisticated that the appearance of an ex-boyfriend is what pushes them finally together.

The Next Step

Wedding preparation, telling the rest of the family, and perhaps even meeting Anthony’s parents.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Must Be Robot Love

Today’s strip of For Better or For Worse actually repulsed me. Anthony is talking about marriage as if he is trying to avoid an unpleasant task that requires the use of the taboo “M” word. As I think back to how Lynn got along with all her old boyfriends, and even Eric Chamberlain looks good compared to the Anthony Caine of today’s strip.

I cannot help but wonder why Lynn Johnston has chosen to portray Anthony Caine as so passive. This is the same guy that steamed up car windows with kissing sessions with Liz, back when they were in high school together. Now he is at the point where:

a. Liz is home in Milborough for over a year and he hasn’t asked her even once for a date. She has to ask him.
b. Julia has to browbeat him at the Shawna-Marie Verano wedding to ask Liz for a dance.
c. In today’s For Better or For Worse, the guy cannot even bring himself to talk about marriage. He uses euphemisms like “where we’re going” and “where this will lead.”
d. Warren Blackwood has to show an interest in Liz in order to stir him into proposal action.

Based on how these two look in the strip, here is how I would redialogue it:

Panel 1:
Elizabeth: We made it to your house. Now tell me what the doctor said.
Anthony: I can’t believe it! It’s not fair.

Panel 2:

Anthony: The doctor said I had 6 months to live.
Elizabeth: 6 months. That isn’t too bad. We can make it until September.
Panel 3:
Anthony: The side effect of the disease is that I can never close my mouth again.
Elizabeth: Does your tongue still work?

Panel 4:
Anthony: I think so. Why do you ask?
Elizabeth: No reason. I was just thinking of something that tongues can do.

Beware the Ides of March

If I were to compare the way Liz has been acting today and yesterday in For Better or For Worse versus Liz describing her relationship with Anthony to Candace Halloran, I would say that we have for once seen a situation where Liz’s description of her love life is the way it actually is. Ironically, it appears that Liz herself did not seem to know it. Otherwise she would not be doing her damage control from Warren Blackwood picking up her phone last week. I imagine that what Liz described to Candace is the relationship as she imagined it would be, and then in today’s strip, she seems to be surprised that the relationship is the way she imagined it. Anthony appears to be "at ease" with her and "trusts" her, just the way Liz described. It’s a good thing too, because Liz lied to Anthony about why Warren was there at her apartment late at night, and is in fact not worthy of his trust.

It was spoiled in the comments to my column yesterday, that we are headed toward a proposal and engagement by Friday of this week, and it is my sincere hope that we don’t have a sequence where Liz and Anthony confess their love to each other in the car, followed by a marriage proposal. I spent a long time calculating my marriage proposal so that it would have a symbolic significance in addition to being a unique romantic experience. Frankly, I think that is what every woman receiving a proposal deserves. Having a proposal come out of a situation involving an ex-boyfriend certainly cheapens the romantic effect of it. I can’t imagine proposing to a woman right after she found me in an awkward situation with my ex-girlfriend.

Anthony is going on and on about how he wants Elizabeth to be sure about what she wants and whom. It’s nice to know he considers her feelings; but that’s not very romantic at all. You want to know that the other person wants you too. It’s the old “I love you. Do you love me?” business. What we have with Anthony is, “I believe you. I want you to be sure about what you want (even if it isn’t me).” After all, when you get down to what went wrong in Anthony’s first marriage, there wasn’t a problem with Thérèse being sure what she wanted. Thérèse wanted Anthony, a career and no kids, and if anything, her initial portrayal was that she was insanely jealous over Anthony. The problem was that Anthony wanted Elizabeth, or what she represented as a woman who would take of the children and household. If Liz is smart, she will ask Anthony to be sure what he wants, before he proposes.

I am also enjoying the irony that of all the days for which this proposal to coincide, Lynn Johnston has picked the Ides of March, symbolic of the dramatic change that occurred in Roman society thanks to the assassination of Julius Caesar. With a proposal, we have essentially set the timer for the end of the strip and the beginning of the reprints, also a dramatic change in For Better or For Worse. It does match up pretty well with the changes that occurred with Julius Caesar's death.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


We didn’t get to see what Liz’s actual response was to Warren’s statement “I don’t want to mess up your life. I want to be a part of it.” However, I am impressed that this week’s For Better or For Worse storyline did not suddenly jump to Grandpa Jim or Elly. Even if we don’t get to see what Liz’s final response to Warren was, we do get to see what Liz tells Anthony about it and that is actually a significant amount – 3 solid panels of explanation.

The most interesting part of this sequence is what Liz does not tell Anthony. She does not tell him that Warren wants to be a part of her life. She does not tell him that Warren quit his job so that he could be a part of her life. She does not tell him that Warren wanted to stay the night. She does not tell him that Warren is in pursuit of her. Frankly, if I were Elizabeth, I wouldn’t say these things to Anthony either. When it rolls around to the final panel and Elizabeth thinks, “He doesn’t believe me!!!”, it would could well be because she knows she has not been honest with him about how she failed to tell Warren in no uncertain terms to leave her alone and stop pursuing her. I suspect that what Lynn Johnston is going for is that Anthony Caine does believe her and expresses that calmly, but Lynn is going with the laugh for Elizabeth suddenly becoming paranoid that he didn’t believe. Lynn enjoys writing hysterical females vs. calm males for comical effect.

The irony of the situation is that Liz has had two conversations with Candace Halloran where the point of the first was that Anthony trusts her and the point of the second was how at ease they were with each other. Rudy Dodd did a routine with Candace reading her mind, and as I viewed today’s strip I was reminded of the possibility that if Liz can read Anthony really well, then her viewpoint in the final panel could be one that (a) shows how great her relationship with Anthony is that she understands him so well and (b) shows how Anthony has not gotten over whatever trust issues he developed thanks to his dealings with Thérèse.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Elizabeth is Home

I had wondered back in the For Better or For Worse strip on December 27, 2007, when Elizabeth said, “Let’s go home, Anthony” and they left Elizabeth’s apartment, exactly what that meant: Sleeping together, living together, joint properly ownership?

When Warren Blackwood showed up this past week spouting the same “home”-related language, I had speculated that what “having a home” meant was “to have a woman in the home committed to taking care of the house and the kids”. This was because Anthony’s original “I have no home” cry, was made at a time when he had a physical house and he was married. His anguished cry meant that his wife had refused to take care of his house and their child. Moreover, he asked Liz to “wait for him”, which we have found means to “wait for him to get rid of the other woman, so that Liz can become the woman who takes care of his house and his child.” It seems almost like the Sound of Music, where what the man really needs in his life is a housekeeper and a nanny, not the evil Baroness, who wants to send the children to boarding school.

After all this speculation, I always had in the back of my mind that this could not possibly be the message Lynn Johnson was sending. I thought she must have meant something else and that the problem was that her poor story-telling skills were getting in the way. And yet, we have this past week that clearly Elizabeth Patterson still lives in her apartment and she is not sleeping with Anthony Caine. Then we have today’s For Better or For Worse strip which shows Elizabeth Patterson, in Anthony Caine’s house, making food for little Frannie Caine, without Anthony’s name being mentioned even once as an explanation for why Liz is there and Anthony is not there.

Naturally, there are a whole host of reasons why Anthony could not be there, and Liz could be there, which would not say that Liz has officially accepted the role of taking care of Anthony’s house and Anthony’s child. However, I consider the fact that Lynn Johnston has not felt the need to present any of those reasons, even in a speech or thought balloon to be very telling. If you are the standard Sunday colour only strip reader, the last Liz and Anthony strip you had was the one where they read the lists to each other and after Liz smooches on Anthony, he asks for the cheque, as if the next thing they would do is to find a room someplace for some private nookie. After that, you have this strip, so what conclusion would you draw?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Set up the Conflict and then Jump Away

The key ingredient of this whole For Better or For Worse storyline is the reaction of Anthony Caine to learning Warren Blackwood is at Liz’s apartment late at night. And yet, what is the one ingredient left out of the storyline? Anthony’s reaction. Maybe Lynn will touch on Anthony’s reaction in next week’s strips, but given her history, Monday will be a set of strips with a completely different change in focus.

Lynn Johnston likes nothing better in Liz’s romances to get us a point where Liz absolutely has to say something in response to a situation, and then says absolutely nothing, as the strip jumps to something completely different. It isn’t as though there is conflict and a lack of a resolution; it is that we don’t get to see the resolution. Not only that, but we don’t even get to find out what the resolution was through any other source. It is one of the most frustrating parts about Lynn Johnston’s writing. I fear we have just gotten another one in today's strip.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Trust Me…He Trusts Me

First of all, I am pleased to see in today's For Better or For Worse, that Liz didn’t buckle into Warren’s pressure and let him spend the night. Obviously he has suckered Liz into allowing him into her apartment late at night where he could answer the phone and say where Anthony can hear him, “I think it’s the OTHER man in your life!” and royally screw over Liz. Possibly he thinks he can pick up the pieces of the relationship, if Anthony goes ballistic and does not believe Liz when she says, “Warren is just a friend.” After all, how many times have we heard that phrase out of Liz when it was the truth? I would say, “None is the answer.”

On the other hand, it will be a real test of Anthony and Liz’s relationship. Liz said in this strip, talking to Candace that Anthony is learning to trust again after what Thérèse did to him, and she proclaimed to Candace that Anthony trusted her. Now, we get to see if what Liz said to Candace was true. Does Liz really know what her relationship with Anthony is like?

If Liz was right, then it could be that the Saturday strip will show Liz saying, “Oh that person who answered the phone is Warren Blackwood, the guy who shows up once a year to ask me date him and then he goes away again. He just barged in here, and now he’s leaving.” And Anthony says, “I trust what you’re saying is completely true. You are a blessing to me and my family and not some cheating woman like my ex-wife was.” Then we the readers will understand because we have actually been shown (and not told for a change) that Anthony and Elizabeth trust each other completely. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to end the week?

Somehow, I suspect this is not the way it is going to go on Saturday. Bring on the cheap theatrics Lynn!!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Warren Blackwood – Scam Artist

Lynn Johnston surprised me again. In today’s For Better or For Worse, we learn that Warren Blackwood did not actually come to visit Liz in the middle of the night because he was in love with Liz, but in order to find a place to crash for a couple of nights. I have not run across these kinds of guys personally, but I have known women who have. They date the guy a couple of times and he suggests moving in with each other, only it’s to move into her place, and he contributes nothing to the rent, because he is between jobs. And by the way, these guys are usually quite good-looking. Then the women find things missing around the house, or find the guy has a drug habit, or find the guy has a girlfriend across town who is raising his kids, and on and on. I am amazed that very intelligent women I know have fallen for this stuff; however, I am even more amazed that Lynn Johnston has turned Warren Blackwood into one of these characters. He used to be a nice guy with baby pictures of his brother’s kids in his wallet.

Of course, I am sure this is all grounded in the reality of Lynn’s life. Back around this time last year, when Rod Johnston told Lynn he wanted a divorce because he was cheating on her, is it just a little bit possible that Rod might have suggested that he keep living in their house together, until he found a place for him and his new girlfriend?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Way Things Weren’t

I remember doing a production of Kiss Me Kate where the character of Kate is supposed to run out of a house being chased by her sister, Bianca and her mother, because they are upset with her. In the production I was in, the director decided that the sister should run out first being chased by Kate and her mother. The actress playing the sister was completely confused and tried on multiple occasions to explain to the director that the scene made no sense with this staging. The more she tried to explain to him, the more he insisted that that actors do it just the way he staged it. Ultimately, they did and the scene made little sense. The director did not understand the play, and it was very frustrating to those who did.

With today’s For Better or For Worse, I have the feeling that the creator of this strip has reached that point. She has the character of Elizabeth Patterson explaining in great detail about how she was “dumped so many times” by the character of Warren Blackwood. I think the author of the comic strip does not understand the relationship of Elizabeth and Warren, even though she was the one who created them. She seems to think that they were at one point, boyfriend and girlfriend. After all, you can’t dump someone unless there was a committed relationship at some point. However, if you are a scrupulous reader of this strip (as I sadly must admit I am), then you would know that Warren Blackwood and Elizabeth Patterson have never been boyfriend and girlfriend, not even in university.

I went through the on-line archives of the old comic strips on the For Better or For Worse website to confirm this. He dated her from April to May, 2003, and they parted as “just friends” when he graduated, having never been shown as doing anything more than hugging each other. He was her unexpected and convenient university graduation party date in 2004. He went on a date with Elizabeth to the party Josef Weeder threw for Michael Patterson getting his book contract in March, 2007; and their second date was cancelled because of his work. Those are all the occasions I could find where Elizabeth Patterson and Warren Blackwood were together, and Elizabeth was not in a relationship with another man.

I am not sure what to make of it. Is Lynn Johnston retconning in that Warren and Elizabeth had a relationship as a boyfriend and girlfriend? Or has she honestly forgotten the nature of their relationship?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Warren Gives Liz Everything She Wanted, but will it work?

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we may be hitting the motherlode of themes repeated during Elizabeth’s various romances.

I have no home!!

Warren Blackwood’s comment “I don’t have a HOME anywhere!!” is shockingly reminiscent of Anthony Caine’s famous strip sequence from August of 2005, which I consider to be the single, lowest point of Lynn Johnston’s writing in the last 5 years. With as much grief as she has taken for that sequence, I was surprised she would use such a direct reference. However, we have seen the “home” theme again recently with Anthony Caine and Elizabeth in this strip from last December, where Liz declared Anthony’s home to be hers also. Thematically, Lynn could be saying that the difference here between Warren and Anthony is that Anthony asked Liz to wait until he finally got out of his marriage, whereas Warren did not ask Liz to wait until he finally decided to quit his job.

Warren, let go!!

That Elizabeth Patterson pushes away from Warren Blackwood’s hug, is a stark contrast from the nearly-same situation she had with Warren, when she started dating Constable Paul Wright. In Paul Wright’s case, however, Liz did not pull away from Warren’s embrace, but had tears in her eyes that it was necessary to break up with Warren because Paul was more attentive. Symbolically it shows the type of commitment that Liz had to Paul versus the type of commitment she now has to Anthony Caine. Liz regularly used to hug on some old boyfriend and proclaim that they were just friends, particularly the married Anthony Caine. Now, we can see proof that Liz did not really consider those hugs to be all that innocent, not that I believed they were innocent in the first place.

I can’t fly anymore

Sorry to bring this one up again; but I think we are seeing yet another example of comic strip divorce therapy. Rod Johnston, the flying dentist, had to give up his flying dentistry practise, which he loved, when he and Lynn moved to Corbeil from Lynn Lake. Lynn has mentioned this fact a few times in her recent interviews talking about her divorce from Rod Johnston. I have a feeling we are going to see Lynn work through this issue between her and Rod, during the course of this week. Brace yourselves.

Do I Really Want What I Have Been Asking For?

Liz’s perpetually complaint with Warren Blackwood is that he placed a greater importance on his job than on her. However, the attractive part about Warren to Liz was the idea that he was a helicopter pilot, which was declared to be “amazing” by anyone who encountered him. Now that he has given that up to be close to Liz, and essentially removed all objections she had about him, will Liz respond in kind? After all, the way Lynn Johnston has played this, is that Liz only considered Anthony Caine after all her other options fell through (including drunken Mason, the best man). If Lynn is playing her character of Liz consistently, Liz will give Warren some consideration for making this sacrifice for her.

Kudos for Lynn

I had suspected Warren would return before Liz and Anthony got married and Lynn Johnston has not disappointed me. Warren’s character has been magnificently assassinated. The nice helicopter pilot student from back in 2002, who was so kind to Liz in helping her during her bus travels, has a personality barely recognizable as a man who is completely obsessed with a woman whom he dated for a few months back in 2003

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Warren Blackwood’s Return

Lynn Johnston is really testing the memory of her readers now. First Rudy Dodd shows up for the first time in 4 years, Shiimsa shows up for the first time in 6 months, and now Warren Blackwood makes his first appearance since March 31, 2007. His last mention was later in April 23, 2007 where we hear Liz’s side of a phone conversation with Warren and her raspberry of the phone after she hung up, which led to her decision finally to pursue Anthony Caine. The implication from the conversation was that Warren would be working in Yellowknife “for a while” and Liz’s sarcastic response that “I guess I won’t see you for a while!” That conversation pretty much summed up Liz’s problem with Warren Blackwood:

a. He has to travel to different work locations for his work.
b. Elizabeth has no intention of ever traveling to spend time with him.

The characteristic of Elizabeth Patterson as a “you must come to where I am” woman has been consistently played in both her relationship with Warren and Constable Paul Wright. However, the more interesting part of it is how she reacts when the person she is interested in does not travel to be with her. While she was in Mtigwaki, her monthly letters indicated that she honestly expected Warren, with his helicopter job, to be able to drop in and visit her any time he pleased. Then when he finally did do that, she criticized him for not being around often enough with a “Seeing is believing” statement and showed up to his helicopter in the company of another man.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see Warren Blackwood showing up out of nowhere, almost a year after his last appearance, saying, “Hello! Remember me?” making his reappearance even more preposterous than I could have hoped. I had hoped he would reappear. I had hoped he would try to start back up from the place where he left off with Liz. But in the middle of night showing up at Liz’s apartment where she was not living when he was last in town is even better than that.

Thank you, Lynn Johnston. Just when I think you are trying to bore me to death; you write a storyline that sets new standards for snarkability. I can’t wait. I just know Warren and Elizabeth are going to wow me with ridiculousness this week. And if you are really nice to me, you have will Anthony Caine say something like, “I heard Warren was in town over at your apartment late at night, and so in revenge, I proposed to Julia at work.” That would be a dream come true.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Middle of the Night Sleep/Feed-ings

Today’s For Better or For Worse is unusual to me, because I cannot recollect any occasion in which I would get up for a crying child, have the child calmed down over my shoulder and then think that the next step was to put the child in a high chair and give her a cup of something to drink. After all, the objective is to get the child to stop crying and back to sleep, and that seems to have occurred at the point where John has her over his shoulder opening the refrigerator door. Why would he then continue on to the complicated process of putting her in a high chair and pouring a glass of milk? I cannot think of a single occasion in all my parenting where I ever did that.

Now, if you want to talk falling asleep while trying to get a baby to stop crying, then that is a wholly different story. There were many occasions where, after changing a diaper (whether it needed to be changed or not) I would take the baby into my arms and sit in the rocking chair (cleverly placed by the crib) and hold the child close to me in order to calm her down and rock her back to sleep. On those occasions, if I was really tired, I sometimes would find that I had dozed off during the rocking along with the child, and then began the difficult process of getting the child from my arms in the rocker back to the crib without waking her up again. Because, if you wake her up again and she starts crying, then you have to begin the whole process over, except minus the diaper-changing.

I think what we are seeing in today’s For Better or Worse is sitcom humour. You can understand why it’s supposed to be funny, but it requires a suspension of disbelief in order to work:

1. You have to believe that John is so tired that he can do all those things without it waking him up.
2. You have to believe that little Elizabeth would not start crying again immediately when she did not get the glass of milk.
3. You have to believe that a kid who eats out of a high chair can handle milk out of a glass. My kids used non-spill sippy cups when they were of the age where their stomachs could handle milk.

If you can suspend your disbelief, the strip will work. However, one of the majour ideas behind For Better or For Worse’s popularity is the idea that people can see these strips and relate to them in their own lives. In other words, the old “it’s funny because it’s true” business. For me, this strip strikes out in that regard. I only find it funny in a sitcom kind of way.