Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finally a Patterson Pays

One of the things I wondered about Mike and Deanna's fake wedding was whether or not the Pattersons paid any part of it over and above the wedding dress. Traditionally the groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner, which can be expensive in its own right. Today's For Better or For Worse has an indication, however obscure, that the wedding dress was the only thing. April is, for some reason, taunting her father about how he will have to dress up and do something for this wedding, which he did not have to do for Mike and Deanna's wedding.

At my wedding, I put all the fathers in morning suits regardless of whether or not they were escorting any brides. Thanks to the wonderful world of divorce and remarriage, we had 4 sets of parents to deal with, and it was a lot easier just to put all them in the same outfit than to deal with any issues about conformity of dress, and my wife's step-father, who had not worn a suit in years. Given the statement by April about John's tux, it is fairly safe to say he did not wear a tuxedo to Deanna and Michael's wedding and apparently did nothing (that April observed) as a part of the ceremony. The other thing I note is that John makes a comment about the wedding costing him a bundle, and if the Pattersons paid for a rehearsal dinner, I would have expected a similar comment. Also, it would have been too easy to have Mira Sobinski make a comment about the rehearsal dinner and butt heads with the Pattersons over their choice of rehearsal dinner location. I can't imagine Lynn Johnston missing out on an opportunity like that.

As for the bundle John is paying, there are some indications that he is really paying it. When Liz made the comment about whether or not to have the wine served at the table as an option, I knew we were moving into an expensive wedding. The single most expensive item of my wedding was the reception, and the single most expensive item at the reception was the alcohol. I had often suspected that Anne Nichols was going to donate the reception, just as Lawrence Poirier is paying for the flowers and Anthony Caine's uncle is paying for the tuxes; but I have not seen one mention of Anne with this wedding. I also expect Josef Weeder is doing the photography, but there has been no indication of him either. So, if Dr. John Patterson is paying for a reception with table service wine, then the wedding really is costing him a bundle.

I have had to readjust my thinking about the message Lynn Johnston was sending out about weddings, with the wedding preparation. After making fun of Mira Sobinski and Mother Verano at their children's weddings, I was sure the message was, "Expensive weddings are bad." Since Liz is going for a wedding costing a bundle, what appears to be the situation is that "Weddings where the daughter lets others plan the wedding for her are good." I have never seen a wedding like that, but who am I to judge?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Last's Years' Joke Served Fresh

August 18, 2007 is the last time Lynn Johnston did this "Elly talks to John about Grandpa Jim and Iris and it turns into a 'Who will be the caretaker for us?'" conversation she does in today's For Better or For Worse. She's done this joke a few times before, but usually does not repeat the same joke within the same year. The difference is last time John managed to get a backrub out of the conversation. This time he gets a hug in front of the grill.

Lynn had originally planned to end the strip in September, 2007 with Elizabeth's wedding, but spend so much time playing the game of "Which man will get the girl?" that she did not leave enough time for the wedding to take place. So, she decided to extend the wedding out for another year. She still ended up not allowing enough time to tell the wedding story properly, but seems to be finishing it out anyway. I cannnot help but to think that since August 18 would have been shortly before the strip was originally planned to be finished and since we see the same situation repeated today; Lynn Johnston has always intended for Elly and John to think of Grandpa Jim in terms of their own experience and who will end up being the longterm caretaker. I also think it appears highly likely that Lynn gave Grandpa Jim a second stroke in October, 2007, as a way to keep his stroke storyline going for another year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mucilage: Lower than Denture Jokes

There is not too much to say about today's For Better or For Worse. Miracle worker, Elly, has done what April could never do in all her visits, and that was make Jim happy again and to treat Iris with respect. It has been since September, 2006 with this storyline, and as it turns out, all Grandpa Jim needed was some time with Elly to brighten his spirits and lighten his heart.

If yesterday's strip is any indication, the way Elly solved this problem was with a show of affection and a denture joke. Just to make sure we readers got that yesterday was a denture joke, Iris drops off a series of words describing her relationship with Jim, which could just as easily been an advertisement for denture-bonding creams. Join us tomorrow for more in this interesting and completely untouched area of humour.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Elly Hugs Jim, At Last!!

I was reading today's For Better or For Worse and I was struck by the significant difference between the way Elly treats her father, compared to the way Lynn Johnston treated his real-life counterpart, her own father. Elly hits all the right notes in the strip by telling her father she is lucky to have him here with us. I imagine that there are dozens of people who have deceased parents or other loved ones who will wish that they had said that to them. The big difference between this character and Lynn Johnston was that after her father died, Lynn took her father to task in an interview for his inability or unwillingness to defend Lynn from her own mother's abuse. It makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston is finally turning the corner on her feelings about her father, or if she is just putting stuff in her strip to get an "Awww!" reaction from her audience.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Dream Come True

I had seen a number of predictions about the things coming in the upcoming wedding between Elizabeth and Anthony, usually intended as jokes, but with a hint of truth to them. Then when the wedding preparation started, and the tasks were being given out to be accomplished, I began to think that maybe, only Lawrence Poirier and Gramma Marian were giving a part of the wedding for free. Then along comes today's For Better or For Worse and in literally 2 panels of Elly spelling out wedding details, we get almost all of those predictions. April's sings. Michael does a speech. Mike's a groomsman. The formal wear is for free, thanks to Anthony's uncle. All those jokes we snarkers have made have come true.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In 1979, Elly Wasn't Perfect, But I Understand

Today's For Better or For Worse contains a number of elements showing why the strip grew in popularity:

1. The lead character is not perfect. Elly Patterson is presented as a little nutty when something goes wrong, and the reader is allowed to see how the nuttiness grew. In fact, watching the progression from worry that is reasonable to unreasonable is a classic example of how "Show and not Tell" story-telling works. The reader may think Elly is a little crazy for drawing the conclusions she draws, but they can understand it. Perhaps they can even empathize with it.

2. Background action is included to good effect. Elly Patterson is shown working herself up into a frenzy but also we have a panel of little Elizabeth emptying her cup onto the floor without any reaction from Elly. This helps to illustrate the state Elly has gotten herself in. One of the things that I have realized from examining several of these reprint strips carefully over the last year, is that Lynn Johnston used to regularly include background action which complemented the point of the story and rewarded the reader who took the time to look at the strip instead of rushing through it to the punchline.

3. An apple-shaped clock. Here is something in the background which adds to the characterization of the Patterson family without making a big deal about it. It says that Elly Patterson is the type of person who would have an apple-shaped clock openly displayed in her house. I would take this over an elaborately drawn background any day, because it says more to me about Elly, than generic tables and chairs drawn with a straight edge ever will.

4. A story told with a physical gesture. Elly looks at the apple-shaped clock to determine that John is late, but then she also checks the time on the watch on her arm as confirmation. Ultimately this is going to be a story about Elly's paranoia, and right off the bat, we see Elly second guess her clock just before she is about to second guess John. That is one of the little points as an artist which really makes a strip for me.

As for why this strip was chosen for reprint, I am afraid the hint of John being unfaithful is probably the cause. Lynn Johnston has done this before and even confessed in an article in the Chicago Tribune her motivation for picking an "Elly irrationally assumes John is unfaithful" strip to reprint was because of her divorce. I had hoped after a year of this, we would see signs she was getting better (like reprinting some of the happy strips from 1979); but sadly, this is not the case.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Don’t Make Grandpa Jim Angry, Unless You’re Elly

Today’s For Better or For Worse is probably the most interesting because of its beginning. 2 days ago, Grandpa Jim showed his anger because Elly was talking down to him and asking him questions over and over again like he couldn’t understand what she was saying. Then yesterday, we saw Elly push Iris out the door. In today’s strip, reading from left to right the first thing we see is Grandpa Jim with a storm cloud over his head. Given the events of the last 2 days, this begs the question: Why?

Is Grandpa Jim still mad that Elly talked down to him back when they were outside in the garden? Is Grandpa Jim angry because Iris left him in the care of Elly? Is Grandpa Jim angry that his wife feels the need to leave him with a sitter? All these are possible choices. However, the thing I noticed we did not see, was Iris saying goodbye to Grandpa Jim. Yesterday’s long farewell sequence was completely Jim-less. How odd. While Elly was trying to tell Iris that everything was going to be handled while she was gone, no one was telling Jim the same thing. His wife packed, gave last minute instructions to Elly for the care and feeding of Jim, hugged Elly and Jim was completely left out. Shoot! In my family, even when we leave pets in the care of others when we travel, we say goodbye to them.

What has really happened is that Lynn Johnston has shown us very clearly the focus and purpose behind this sequence. It is not about Jim. It is about Elly. In yesterday’s strip, Iris praised Elly for taking over. In today’s strip, Elly praises herself for trying to understand her father. I could read between the lines as Lynn Johnston has suggested, and presume that Jim is pissed off because Iris ran off without saying goodbye, or I could read between the lines that Iris really did say goodbye and we just didn’t see it and Jim is pissed off for some other unknown reason. The reason Jim is pissed off is unimportant. What is important is that he has to be in a bad mood for Elly to come off as kind and understanding of his bad mood.

How should this have been done? To be honest, Jim has had almost no one in the apartment but Iris for the last 18 months. Iris has been shown to be constantly talking, constantly interpreting for Jim, and constantly belittling him in front of others. If Lynn Johnston were to get into the head of Jim, what you might really have is Jim looking forward to a vacation from Iris, just as much as Iris is looking forward to a vacation from Jim. Imagine a strip where Elly says to Jim, "I finally got the time to take over for Iris for a few days!" and Jim thinks, "What took you so long?"

Another element of this strip sequence might be Jim trying to assert himself. Elly wants to go outside and watch movies. Jim may want to do something completely different. He may want to go to an old fogey music concert, baseball game, or any of a host of activities which Iris would not have allowed him to do. Elly could be shown trying to communicate with Jim as opposed to Iris' constant psychic interpretation for him. If that happened, then Elly would come off very well.

What will probably happen? My guess is that Elly and Jim are going to reminisce about 1979-80 for 2 weeks, so Lynn Johnston will get in her usual 2 weeks of reprints per month. Then we will have a 3-week run showing the events of the wedding day, and that's where the strip will end.

As for me, I head out tomorrow for Garden City, S.C. on my annual trip to visit my relatives. I don’t know what the computer access capabilities will be so, so once again a daily Howard Bunt Blog will be sporadic for a week. Secretly, I hope for the reprints, because I don’t want to miss anything important. I would also be equally excited to miss a week of "Praise Elly the best daughter in the world!" OK. Not equally. I would prefer reprints to a week of that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When the Going Get Tough, Don’t Call Elly

When we started on this “Elly stays with Grandpa Jim” adventure, I had wondered whether or not Elly had the fortitude to be able to lift and push Grandpa Jim around as we have seen Iris do. And there were also the addition questions of whether or not Elly would be giving her father a bath or wiping his butt or helping him to the washroom if he woke up in the middle of the night or having to feed him by hand. Thanks to today’s For Better or For Worse, we can see that Elly will not have to do any of those things. The nurses will do the bathing and apparently Grandpa Jim can handle all the other things himself.

Why is it necessary for Lynn Johnston to describe all these unpleasant elements of taking care of Grandpa Jim that Elly will not have to do? Elly actually says that Jim will be fine because she doesn’t have to do these things. The implication is that she would not be fine with taking care of Grandpa Jim if she had to do them. And that leads us to think that the whole reason why Elly Patterson has stayed away from helping Iris with her father since he had his stroke in October, 2006 is because she did not want to and possibly was incapable of doing those things for him. I am not sure what Lynn Johnston is after with such a statement. How can she paint a picture of Elly the perfect daughter, if the perfect daughter can’t do the tough jobs? Does Lynn Johnston think that these jobs are jobs best left to the professionals? Iris is in her 80s, and she can do it.

After having explained why Elly is not doing the tough jobs, Lynn Johnston then has Iris introduce what I would call “inconvenient” jobs, i.e. giving him a little bit of oatmeal before bedtime, leaving a light on at night, making sure he takes his pills, etc. Does Lynn Johnston really think that these little items are going to show Elly is a wonderful daughter? Little Meredith could probably do the jobs Iris requests.

Sorry, Lynn. If Elly wiped Grandpa Jim’s butt or had to give him a bath, I would be impressed. A little oatmeal or flipping on a light at night is completely unimpressive.

When my grandfather got into his 80s, my mom discovered that he had stopped bathing himself. He had gotten in a bathtub and accidentally turned on the hot water by itself, and then when it started burning him, he panicked and couldn’t think to turn on the cold water, and he got badly scalded. This led him to decide that he was no longer going to take a bath for fear of getting burned again. Mom figured it out and agreed to give him baths to make sure he got clean. Naturally this led to an uncomfortable situation for both of them, but they got over it. I was very impressed with my mom for being able to regularly do that for her father for years.

Now Elly Patterson pops in to help out with her father and she doesn’t have to do that. She’s leaving it to the nurses. And not only that, but she feels the need to point that out to Iris so Iris won’t worry that there will be problems. This could be a reasonable reassurance for Iris, because Iris knows Elly is not capable of taking care of her father’s majour needs and Elly knows it too. It’s like Elly saying, “Don’t worry, Iris. I may be an incompetent boob; but that’s OK, because there are competent people who will handle all the tough stuff.” Jim may be in good hands, but those good hands are not Elly’s.

Day 1 of Lynn Johnston trying to show Elly is a great daughter to Jim, and already she has made Elly look worse than she did before. Good job, Lynn!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Iris Finally Gets Her Wish

I remember when the monthly letters came out on the For Better or For Worse website and it was always interesting to read Grandpa’s letter, especially after his stroke. Grandpa Jim rarely appeared in the strip, and so his and Iris’ monthly letters were often stories completely unrelated to anything going on in the strip. After the stroke, there was a significant difference between the attention of the Pattersons to Grandpa Jim and Iris in the letters versus what was displayed in the strip. I suppose this was to be the part where we “read between the lines” as Lynn Johnston has requested that her readers do, but the main difficulty with the description in the monthly letters and the strip was the discrepancies which prevented the monthly letters from being accepted as a part of the For Better or For Worse canon. For example:

Grandpa's Letter, February 2007

John has been wonderful - he's made some modifications to our apartment that make it easier and faster for Jim to get around. With Michael's help, he put railings around the bedroom and the hall leading to the bathroom. Jim uses his walker, but extra available support is nice. We have grips around the facilities and a special seat in the bathtub that can be lowered. This gadget is new and he loves it.

Then in the strip, when we got to see the bedroom and the hall leading to the bathroom, there were no railings in evidence. So, if you can’t accept that part of it, can you also accept monthly letter descriptions which have Elly visiting 2 or 3 times a week, when the strip shows her visiting once every 6 months? Not likely.

Today’s For Better or For Worse is interesting, because there was a running theme in the final monthly letters before they were halted, that had Iris desperate to visit her daughter, the one who lived in Arizona. In fact, the story about Elly staying first appeared in this monthly letter.

Grandpa's Letter, June 2007

Elly has offered to stay here with Jim for a few days running if I want to go visit my daughter, Maggie. I'm going to take her up on that. Jim might be upset. He likes me to take care of his personal needs, but the nurses will help him through his day, and John can help with baths. I think he'll this arrangement. He has to, because. honestly, I really need the time away. I can't wait to see Maggie! Maybe we'll go golfing together.

The way I used to tell if there was any truth to a monthly letter was either (a) it appeared in the strip or (b) the next month’s monthly letter talked about the trip. In the case of July, 2007, there was no mention of a trip to visit Maggie in Arizona, so we had to presume it did not happen even within the internal logic of the letters. Today’s strip mentions Iris’ son as the recipient of Iris’ trip. He was last visited by Iris in this letter.

Iris's Letter, December 2005

Happy holidays, everyone! I know we're early, but all the lights and trees are up and I'm getting into the spirit. I'll be leaving for Calgary in a few days to visit my son Jordan, his wife Anna and my grandkids, Aydan and Emma. I haven't been on a jaunt by myself in ages, and Jim can well get along without me for two weeks.

You will notice the letter is pre-stroke. And the letter the next month talked about the trip, so I accepted it as canon. That was the last time Iris saw her son.

As for today’s strip, Elly talks down to Jim and makes him mad. Iris then makes a comment to Elly about Jim’s temper, once again as if Jim were not there for the 3rd strip in a row. It’s a good thing that this strip doesn’t have a final thought balloon for Jim. If it did, it would probably be something like, “Don’t talk down to me, you *&^%*&^%”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back from Dallas and Back to Grandpa Jim

I am back in Tucson after a week in Dallas visiting relatives and attending the annual Homemade Gourmet convention. It was a long week, and my goal in the week is allow my kids as much time as I can get them to visit with their grandparents (2 sets on my wife’s side) who live in Dallas, an old friend of my wife’s and her kids, and my wife’s step-brother and his family. Also, I attended the Homemade Gourmet Convention (my wife’s business) during the awards dinner, for which spouses are usually invited to attend. For the most part it was a successful week and people whom I wanted to see and visit with my kids had the opportunity to do so.

There were even a few moments in which I got some computer access to do some Howard Bunt Blog entries. Today we did the 1000-mile drive back and everyone got back safely.

As for For Better or For Worse, the focus is once again on the depressing life of Grandpa Jim and I can only hope we are not going to spend the entire week with this same setup, i.e. Jim getting wheeled around and then making some mental comment about how no one talks to him. This has been a constant source of frustration to us readers, because we remember that for a brief shining moment, Grandpa Jim was shown to have a picture book that he could use to communicate. Almost immediately after that element was introduced, it was dropped, and this running joke of “Iris interprets for Jim, and Jim thinks a sarcastic / depressing comeback” began. This joke has been repeated over and over and over. As is usual for the Lynn Johnston style, she finds a story-telling element she likes and then does as many variations as she can. However, unlike her mentor, Charles Schulz, who did the same thing with strips like the once-a-year “Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown” running joke strip, Lynn does not seem to have the good sense to put a little space in between running joke appearances. I don’t think I would mind this running joke with Grandpa Jim if it did not happen more than 2 days in a row and every time we see Grandpa Jim.

On the plus side, we get to see something we have never seen before at the place where Jim and Iris live—a staff. I have often wondered why Jim and Iris would live in a place occupied entirely by persons their age, if there was not a staff to help them do things. I wondered why Iris has appeared to have to do everything by herself. In today’s strip, we can see why. The staff appears and seems to have no other purpose than to get a current status on Jim’s condition and to smile beneficently. They seem to be fairly worthless. However, since they have made an appearance for the first time in the over 6 years Iris and Jim have lived there, I have to wonder what is up in the Lynn Johnston planning.

Ever since Jim’s stroke #2 back in October, when Elly let it drop that Iris had put in a reservation years ago at the Sunset Manor, I have long suspected that this would be Jim’s eventual location before the strip ended. The appearance of these 2 previously-unseen medical workers could be an indication this is where we are going. Plus, Iris says these startling words, “His daughter is coming to stay with him soon.” Elly Patterson coming into relieve Iris after she has been the sole support of Jim since October, 2006, could well spell the moment where Jim is put in the Sunset Manor. We could have a heart-warming moment where Elly explains to Jim that now that his health is stable, he can be moved, while Jim thinks, “Now you’re moving me? When my health is stable? Hell, woman, just a few months ago I was in the park with my great grand-kids.”

The other possibility is that someone explained to Lynn Johnston that the idea of Iris having a reservation for Jim at Sunset Manors is not how health care facility assignments are done in Ontario, and she has dropped the whole idea. Maybe, Elly is coming in so Lynn can finally dispel the unrelenting complaints about Jim’s poor treatment by everyone in the Patterson family (except for April). There are some who might say, “Too little too late”, but as for me, I take great delight in moments where Lynn Johnston intentionally tries to force her lead characters to look good. If past history of this strip is any indication, what we will have instead is a moment where the lead characters will look at their worst. I can’t wait.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sand is not Dirt

It is a curious habit with the younger set of Pattersons that they do not seem to mind their children tearing up part of their lawn in order to dig in the dirt. Back in 2007, when Meredith fooled Robin into eating dirt, the ground was similarly torn up. As I now live in Arizona where the yards are made up of different kinds of rock and not grass, it is less a concern if my kids start digging in the yard; but when I lived in Texas, and the quality of the lawn added value to the property, we would not have let our kids dig up part of the yard to play in the dirt. Instead we had a sandbox for that purpose. I can't speak for Milborough or Canada in general, but today's For Better or For Worse, with Robin digging up a good part of the yard strikes me as a little odd.

There are some other obvious questions like:

a. Does Deanna know the difference between sand and dirt, or do Canadians consider the words to be interchangeable?

b. Why does Robin appear to be almost 8 years old?

c. Why does Deanna think such a stupid thought to herself, when she walks out and finds her son sitting in the dirt with no shoes on?

On the plus side, it is nice to see a solo Robin strip. I don't think he has ever had one before. It is also nice to see Robin acting like a regular kid for a change, instead of just existing to fight his sister and torture his parents. It's good Lynn is showing this side of Robin, so we will not be as much in fear of him as a ring bearer for the wedding. Now that Lynn has finished all the wedding preparation strips (or at least that's the way it looks), then we can get onto a few other topics which have been left unresolved until we get to the wedding day events. So, I look forward to Lynn addressing these topics:

a. Grandpa Jim goes to the Sunset Manor.

b. Michael is officially declared as so successful an author he can support his family with the money he makes from writing.

c. Elly is frustrated as she hunts for a mother-of-the-bride dress.

d. Thérèse reappears and is smacked down for throwing away a perfectly good husband and child.

e. Elly and Connie reminisce about 1979.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who gets to go first --me or Meredith?

We have made jokes about Françoise's importance relative to the rest of the Patterson kids, and once again, to my amazement, Lynn Johnston gives us concrete proof of the truth of those jokes in today's For Better or For Worse. Apparently even little Françoise is aware of her place in the Patterson kid pecking order. What are the clues?

1. Françoise confirms her flower girl status with Elizabeth, as if she were not already well aware of the situation from other sources, like people measuring her for a flower girl dress and shoes, and Elizabeth cannot simply tell her, "Yes, Francie". She has to add the line about Meredith is also a flower girl, to make sure Françoise does not get confused and think she is the only one.

2. Once Meredith is mentioned, the first question out of Françoise's mouth is not something like, "Are we going to wear the same dresses?" but a question about who gets to go first? This is an odd question, because you would not think that a girl as young as Françoise would be aware of the relative importance of a person in a wedding ceremony based on their entrance.

3. Instead of answering Françoise's question, Elizabeth appears to be completely side-stepping the answer to Françoise and adds Robin in. The answer is important to Françoise and the fact that Elizabeth is side-stepping tells us that she does not want to tell Françoise the real answer which is "Meredith goes first." If Meredith went after Françoise, then there would be no need to side-step.

4. Françoise then attacks the issue Elizabeth just raised with Robin, and Elizabeth side-steps the question again, when she could just as easily say, "The ring bearer is a boy. The flower girl is a girl."

5. Elizabeth throws a bribe in anticipation of Françoise causing problems with the order. She knows Françoise is last. She knows Françoise has learned somewhere that being first indicates her status relative to Meredith and Robin. Instead of dealing with the fact that Françoise has been placed last (considered to be less important than Elizabeth's niece and nephew), she is instead resorting to bribery to keep Françoise from complaining.

6. Anthony fulfills his position as "John Patterson" wannabee, by making fun of what Elizabeth is doing. However, he is not stepping in and explaining things to Françoise. This means that either he does not care about Françoise's feelings, or we have just discovered the person who brought up the issue with Françoise's position to Françoise in the first place. Maybe Anthony is upset about Françoise's position, and lets Françoise raise the issue with Elizabeth, like John Patterson used to use April in arguments with Elly.

As I look at these 6 items, I wonder if I am overthinking this. Lynn Johnston is probably trying to show how wonderful Elizabeth is by side-stepping Françoise's issues in order to avoid an argument with her. However, I can't get around the fact that Françoise asks Elizabeth straightforward questions, and Elizabeth cannot answer her honestly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nagging as Sign of Acceptance

Is nagging a sign of acceptance? My inclination is think nagging is more a sign of kids trying to get something using a tool that has been successful for them with adults in the past. My 2 step-nieces in Dallas applied nagging to me when I took them and my kids on outings this week. I was the only adult about with money, and so I was the target of the nagging.

The oddest part for me, with respect to Elizabeth Patterson in today's For Better or For Worse, is that after she has been the recipient of this behaviour with Francie, she is so desperate for acceptance, she is willing to take nagging as a sign of it. The question left is whether or not Elizabeth succumbed to the nagging. We don't see her do it, but we do see little Francie is done with her nagging and looking somewhat satisfied as she stares into the Green Sack. The implication is that Liz was so flattered by the nagging/acceptance she gave in, for no other reason than to encourage a continuation of that acceptance. Unfortunately what we do not see is Liz doing the good parent thing of squelching the nagging with a good natured threat, i.e. "Cut out the nagging, or this something that I told I would do for you, is not going to get done." As it is in most cases of Liz and parenting, we don't see how she finally resolved the problem, aside from excitedly telling Anthony she was nagged, and that look on Francie's face. It is an unsatisfactory ending for good parenting; but it is a good strip for showing character flaws with Liz.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just When You Think the Wedding Can't Get Weirder...

After reading today's For Better or For Worse strip, it appears to me that Elizabeth has gathered the troops, divvied up the tasks, and they have gathered together to report their progress to Liz. The most interesting aspects of this are:

a. The troops include the bridesmaids and Deanna’s mother, Mira Sobinski.
b. Liz does not have a list for herself.
c. There are no Caines involved.

When I got married, my wife consulted with her bridesmaids about the bridesmaid dresses, shoes and bouquets. She also talked to them about functions they could attend like certain bridal showers where the bridesmaids were invited and the engagement party and the bachelorette party. If this was what we saw in this strip, I would be quite happy with it. Instead we have a strip that is made of nothing but reading lists. The things that Dawn Enjo and Shawna-Marie Verano are being asked to do are well beyond anything that my wife would have comfortably asked a bridesmaid to do, or would want to ask a bridesmaid to do. The bride is usually particular about the music in her ceremony, for example. She would want a favourite song, something that is meaningful to her. Why would she ask Shawna-Marie to arrange it? It looks like Elizabeth Patterson does not care what goes into her wedding, so long as she can get someone else to do it for her.

This brings into focus the criticisms that have been made of the prior big weddings in this strip. Mike and Deanna’s second fake wedding and Shawna-Marie Verano’s wedding both had the domineering mother-of-the-bride who wanted to control everything and make all the decisions, much to the chagrin of the bride. I had always thought the underlying message of this was, “Have a small wedding, where the bride gets to pick what she wants.” I never would have suspected that the real underlying message is, “Have a big wedding, and delegate people who get to pick what they want.” This egalitarian distribution of wedding planning choices makes it seem like Elizabeth is going for socialist wedding planning. This is not enough to satisfy Elly, who apparently believes that a wedding with no planning is the best of all. However, the other possibility is that we are seeing another mark of Elizabeth losing her independence. Not only does Elizabeth not pick anything for her wedding, but she does not get the luxury of fighting for the right to pick, as Deanna did with her mother.

As for Deanna’s mom, Mira Sobinski, I would have to do some significant reading between the lines to move her from her prior position as the worst wedding person ever to the position of her doing the flower girl dresses with a fabric she chooses. The woman couldn’t even do a Christmas Dinner grace without the Pattersons thinking awful thoughts about her. There has not been a positive strip about Mira Sobinski since Deanna came back from Honduras in 1999. Of course, Mira’s desire to change the wedding colour scheme is supposed to show, once again, that she is evil. But how do you get her from evil to the point where she is doing the flower girl dresses in the first place? Deanna is the better choice, since she has been shown to be seamstress of the year with Liz’s dress. Or a professional dressmaker? Or Elly, who used to sew? Or Melville Kelpfroth? Or a bum off the street? Anyone else to associate with a wedding other than Mira, would be a better choice. What has happened is that Lynn Johnston remembered that 90% of the Mike and Deanna wedding material back in 2001 had to do with Mira, and she simply cannot stop herself from recycling a storyline, even if it makes absolutely no sense.

The Caine women. If they haven’t shown up by now, they don’t exist. We will be lucky to see Anthony’s mom in the background during the wedding. Just consider Anthony to be an orphan boy, adopted by Gordon Mayes, the local rich man. Think Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights.

As for me, tomorrow I begin my annual trip to Dallas, Texas for my wife’s Homemade Gourmet convention and for my kids to visit relatives on my wife’s side of the house. This means that the Howard Bunt Blog will be sporadic for the next week, only occurring when I can find a computer and get enough time to write something.

For aprilp_katje on April’s Real Blog, it turns out to be an incredibly opportune time for you to have “erased” Michael Patterson. That is as good an explanation as any for his lack of posts, and I will put Jeremy Jones out of town also. Good luck this week. I am sorry to have to be gone while Lynn Johnston is doing new wedding material. I will post something when and if I can.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anthony, the Son I Always Wanted

Seeing Anthony and John Patterson in today's For Better or For Worse together in their chairs reminds me once again, how Anthony appears to be more like John’s son than Michael does. Both men are tall and lanky, wear glasses, and have poor taste in clothing. As emphasized here, John compliments Anthony on being a hard worker, which is a significant contrast to the way he views Mike’s writing skill. John has always lavished compliments on Anthony, and has only complimented his son on (a) picking him up at an airport and (b) raking the leaves without asking. He has never once complimented Michael on the success of either of his two novels. The impression I get is that John prefers Anthony to Michael, and this is one of the primary reasons that John wants Elizabeth to marry Anthony.

From the perspective of Lynn, the reason John praises Anthony is part of a long term effort to try to convince her readers that Anthony is not scum. She’s had this issue with Anthony ever since she seriously miscalculated the effect of the Anthony story after he defended Liz from Howard Bunt. Unfortunately for him, the more John or Elly heap praise upon him, the more I look to see what Anthony has done to deserve that kind of praise. He doesn’t seem to deserve it.

He plays practical jokes on his daughter and blackmails her with Santa Claus to get her to accept Elizabeth. The last 2 times we saw him at work, he was hanging about doing nothing. When John came to buy his Crevasse, Anthony was out by the coffee station. When Liz came for her test drive, Anthony leapt in the car with her. This doesn’t really sound like the hard worker, sensible, kind, a dedicated father type to me.

Another interesting aspect of this is that, unlike Paul Wright and Eric Blackwood, who underwent their interrogation scenes with the Patterson family, Anthony has never had one. Even Mike and Deanna had their scenes with the Sobinskis and Pattersons. There is no question of Anthony's acceptance, until today with John's thought of "or else."

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Let me tell you what “elope” means, Anthony Caine:

–verb (used without object), e·loped, e·lop·ing.

1. to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one's parents.
2. to run away with a lover.
3. to leave without permission or notification; escape.

“Elope” also means that anyone who has made travel arrangements to attend your wedding, is going to be out of some money and will be pissed off at you.
“Elope” means you have put virtually no time into the wedding planning or preparation yourself, so you do not realize how much time would have been wasted by Deanna or April, if you did elope.
“Elope” means that a certain author up in Corbeil is portraying a relationship between adult men in preparation for a wedding that I am not sure exists anymore in the North American continent outside of 1950s television shows.
“Elope” means that you and your bride’s whole nonsense of “taking it slow” was just that—nonsense.
“Elope” means you have forgotten that the sped-up version of this wedding is occurring for no other reason than your wife-to-be wants her grandfather to see her wearing parts of her grandmother’s wedding dress, before he rolls over and dies.
(As a digression, I found it interesting going back through the old strips for Mike and Deanna’s wedding to find one where Grandpa Jim warned them to get married because he might die soon.)
“Elope” means you would actually have to plan something, and you obviously don’t know how to do that.

Besides you can't elope. It has been years since we have seen John Patterson happy over anything aside from model trains, and frankly, we need the change.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Elizabeth Patterson: Bride and Space Cadet

As in the June 17, 2008 strip, today’s For Better or For Worse strip illustrates a trend when it comes to talking to Elizabeth about marriage…she doesn’t listen. In the June 17 strip, Deanna Patterson talks to Elizabeth about how marriage is a real challenge and how you go from lovers to the big list of other things. To which a very wide-eyed Elizabeth responds with the non sequitur that she wants Deanna’s babysitter. Likewise in today’s strip, Elly is the one delivering the marriage lecture to Elizabeth, to which Elizabeth responds with a question about wine serving after several panels of a blank-faced Elizabeth staring out into nowhere. I am quite familiar with this pattern of conversation. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and when you talk to him about something he does not find interesting, he stops paying attention to you and starts talking about something which does interest him. It can be very frustrating to have a conversation with him, to have to lead him back to what you were trying to say over and over again. As I tell my wife, “I have to tell him something 5 times for him to hear it once.”

Over on April’s Real Blog, whenever Elizabeth does something like this, I usually bring out Shannon Lake to point out that Elizabeth is acting like someone who is Special Needs like she is, and to ask April if Elizabeth has been tested for it. Frankly, it has been surprising how many times I have pulled that particular joke out over the last 2 years since Elizabeth returned to Milborough.

Of course, Lynn Johnston is not really going for the “Elizabeth is special needs” intentionally. Now we have seen the second marriage lecture Elizabeth has spaced out on, it seems pretty clear the point Lynn Johnston is making is that Elizabeth does not want to be lectured about marriage. During her conversation with Deanna in particular, she kept saying things like “Anthony and I have been friends for a long time, Dee.” Or “We’re both good swimmers, Dee.” The subtext from my point of view is that both Elly and Deanna think Elizabeth has not considered the step she is about to take fully. I would have to agree with them.

However, this is not the first time Elizabeth has received this lecture. Back on May 27, 2006, Vivian Crane gave Elizabeth almost the same kind of lecture with respect to her dealings with Paul Wright. Elly says Elizabeth should be “faithful and loving and honest and strong.” Vivian thought, “He’s building his future around you and a building needs a firm foundation.” It’s one of Lynn Johnston’s better plot points that she is not afraid of the older women in Elizabeth’s life trying to point out that her flighty nature will destroy her relationships. That has certainly been the case in the past. If Elizabeth had stayed in Mtigwaki, Paul Wright would have proposed to her, considering the way he was shown to feel about her.

It is almost as if Deanna and Elly are saying, “Well, now we finally got Elizabeth together with our choice of Anthony Caine, what can we do to make sure Elizabeth does not self-destruct?” And this is a reasonable fear. The woman is freaking out over her wedding when it is a month away and everything appears to be going smoothly. I liked today’s strip. It is evidence that the Patterson women have the same concerns about Elizabeth and Anthony that the readers do. And best of all, they have no idea how to get through to Elizabeth.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wedding Preparation: The Worst Job a Woman Can Do

I can just the see the letter in Elly’s Coffee Talk.

Dear Lynn Johnston,

When I read Wednesday’s strip, it was like you had a camera in my house. I remember when I was planning my wedding and it was a month away and the stress was nearly killing me. My sister and my mother (rest her soul) had a big group hug just like Eliza, Eleanor, and Ariel did. I hated planning for my wedding. It was one of the worst times of my life. If it wasn’t for them, I never would have survived preparing for my wedding. When I think about the hugs my late mother used to give to me, it makes me want to cry all over again. Thanks for writing such a great comic strip that means so much so many.

I have known for a long time now that Lynn Johnston has a thing against big weddings. Mira Sobinski took a beating for wanting a large wedding for her daughter, Deanna; and Mother Verano took a beating for battles she had with Shawna-Marie Verano at her wedding. The only uncriticized weddings I can remember in recent years were Mike and Deanna’s wedding #1 (the real one), and oddly enough, Anthony and Thérèse Caine’s wedding.

As for me, I loved my wedding. I insisted on being a June bridegroom and I proposed on Easter, which meant that my wife and I had over a year to plan a wedding. My wife will tell you that over a year is too long. However, we found that in the Dallas area, where we got married, that even with over year to plan and with a wedding in June, the most popular places for receptions and the most highly-recommended photographers were already taken. On the other hand, wedding preparation gave me a license to do all kinds of bizarre things to inflict on my family and friends. My wife and I wrote a song for our wedding. We got friends of mine who specialized in playing original instruments from the Baroque era to play for the wedding. We gave the persons attending the wedding plenty of time to arrange for travel. In particular, my wife’s grandmother from New Jersey, who was in a wheelchair full time, came in (and it ended up being the last time my wife saw her live and in person).

The biggest part of it was that there were many occasions which allowed my wife to do things with her mother and her step-mother: The choice of bridesmaid dresses, the wedding dress, visiting different places for the reception and getting to sample their food, visiting places that did wedding cakes to sample their food, and on and on. It was a huge and grand excuse for socializing and bonding and really, just a lot of fun things with wedding showers and engagement parties and having fun showing off the engagement ring. I got to meet relatives I have never seen since and it was fun to do something involving every family member that we have at one occasion. We have never had such a gathering since.

This awful “holding each other up” is a joke Lynn Johnston has done before, most recently when she sold Lilliput’s to Moira Kinney. When I see it, I wonder how it could be that a wedding ceremony and the planning for it are so distasteful to Lynn Johnston. I wonder why it is that Elizabeth is even going through this process, if it is such an awful and terrible thing for her and her sister and her mother. I wonder why it is that Lynn Johnston would want to make such a joyous event into such a misery for those involved.

Is this just the indication of the Pattersons in general? We make jokes about how everything happens easily for the Pattersons, with Michael’s instant best-selling book and Elizabeth’s job dropping in her lap without even an interview. This weeping and whining over the wedding planning makes it seem like what would happen if the Pattersons actually had to work at something instead of having it handed to them. Or the other aspect is the extraordinary negative attitude in the strip for the last few years, where the Pattersons can’t enjoy anything. Mike can’t have a book success without his daughter humbling him with her comments to her brother, for example. Here’s a wedding a month away, and the Patterson ladies are falling apart in their self-induced misery.

If I were to do a For Better or For Worse wedding preparation strip, the obvious choice would be a trip to pick out bridesmaid dresses with Elly, April, Elizabeth, Deanna, Meredith and Françoise. The joke would be that Elizabeth would pick out something and declare it was a dress that everyone could wear for occasions other than a wedding, and someone would make a comment that “Only a bride could say that about that dress and believe it.” The interplay between April and Deanna as the victims of Elizabeth’s choices, and Meredith and Françoise as they sought to understand their responsibilities as flower girls and enjoyed doing “big girl” stuff is something that this strip simply does not have.

The interplay is between the same set of characters every time. Elly talks to Elizabeth and April. Elly talks to Deanna. Deanna talks to Meredith. Elizabeth talks to Françoise. When Elizabeth and Deanna had their “conversation” while Deanna redid / destroyed Grandma Marian’s old dress, it was one of the very few conversations these two women have had in the 9 years they have known each other and was in fact, the only conversation they have had without someone else present. Even on Sunday with Deanna present, Elizabeth barely spoke.

What we have this week is learning all the stuff Elizabeth and April have been doing, which we have not seen due to two weeks of Michael reprints. It’s a big giant helping of “tell, don’t show”. Or more importantly, Lynn Johnston has written herself a big, giant opportunity for story-telling, and she still continues to write this story the same old, way; with the same, old characters. What should be the epic end to 30 years of comic strip is turning out to be a whole lot of “been there, done that”.

Join us tomorrow when Lynn Johnston whips out yet another joke she has done before.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Current status of Liz’s wedding

Decide on a date. - Check
Make an appointment with Clergyman / Officiant. - Unknown
Determine a budget. - Unknown
Compose a guest list. - Check
Set time, location of Ceremony, Rehearsal & Reception Venue. - Check
Choose Professional Photographer / Videographer. - Unknown
Shop for wedding gown: Several fittings will be required. - Check
Obtain Floral & Music estimates; book services if possible. - Unknown
Register with gift registry. - Unknown
Select brides maids. - Check
Pick a honeymoon destination - Unknown
Begin selection of a Caterer. - Check
Set a date to order dresses for bridesmaids. - Unknown

6 of 13 have been done. Congratulations Liz!
We have seen only the wedding gown selection. Who wants to bet how many more items we will see being done?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wedding Planning: At Last!

First off in today's For Better or For Worse, I find it interesting that April and the girls (Eva Abuya and the unknown girl) are off on the traditional summer beach trip without the guys and without bathing suits. Clearly this is in recognition of the fact that April no longer has a boyfriend. I cannot speak for the unknown other girl, but we know that Eva Abuya does have a boyfriend in Duncan Anderson. His absence tells us that this trip is intentionally girls only. Aside from the missing boys, there is also a conspicuous lack of the fun and frivolity and bikinis normally associated with the lake trips. The girls seem almost somber in comparison to prior years’ strips. It seems like, without the guys, April and her girl friends turn into little folders and packers.

The other thing I find interesting is the mysterious other girl. The common joke with April Patterson is that she has no female friends aside from Eva Abuya and Shannon Lake. However, Eva Abuya has passed on gossip to April she has heard from other friends, so we can presume she has some. This must be one of those, if April’s being dropped off first and the arm coming out of the front passenger seat is any indication.

Lastly, I have been long predicting that Liz is going to have a wedding where people come out of the woodwork to contribute things to it. We already know from Lynn Johnston’s interview with the MAY/JUNE issue of Caring Today, Lawrence Poirier is going to provide the flowers. I have speculated that their neighbour and professional chef, Anne Nichols, would offer to cater for free, and so on and so on. With the steam rising over Elizabeth’s head over the planning of the wedding, I have a strange feeling we are getting ready for a sequence just like that. People are going to walk up and rescue Liz in her planning, just like they rescued her with her ill-planned stargazing party in Mtigwaki.

This will be a happy time showing the support the Pattersons have. It will also be wonderfully fun to draw the comparisons between Liz’s wedding with people volunteering stuff for her and Deanna’s wedding with her mother pushing everything on her and both women getting no say. When it’s all said and done, will there be any part of the wedding that Liz can call her own, like Deanna could with her dress choice? My guess is no. Liz’s wedding will be the final nail in the coffin of her independence. Even on her wedding day, Liz will be subject to the whims of others.

I also have the expectation that Lynn is going to go with the idea that the groom does not do anything with the wedding except show up to the church on time. She presented this idea indirectly with the Shawna-Marie Verano wedding last year, where the action was all between Shawna-Marie and her mother, and we did not even find out the groom’s name until we read it on a decoration behind his head at the reception. In fact, I would not be surprised if Anthony Caine makes no strip appearance from his last appearance to when he is in a tuxedo.

The other part I find interesting is the ability to predict the future. Back when there were monthly letters, I found that the John Patterson monthly letters almost always predicted the future storylines exactly as they were going to happen, even though they were sometimes over a year in advance of the event. Since we are supposed to associate Anthony Caine with John Patterson, as the man like dad for Elizabeth, I think it is fair to say we are about to see Anthony’s last statement as a prediction of the wedding planning in homage to John Patterson’s extraordinary predictive skill in his monthly letters:

Weddings are like Woodstock…sometimes they take on a life of their own.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Grandma Who?

Today’s For Better or For Worse does come off as an informational strip for those papers which only carry the feature on Sundays. It mentions:

a. Elizabeth is getting married.
b. The dress was originally Elly’s mother's (the name Marian is not mentioned).
c. Deanna was the one who made alterations to the dress.
d. Pictorially, a retconned appearance of Elizabeth with longer hair than she has worn in a while.

The most amusing part of the strip is Elizabeth’s close-eyed posing all the way through the fitting and her complete lack of involvement in the whole process. Elly and Deanna are talking, but Elizabeth is acting like some fashion model with as much emotional involvement in the proceedings as a fashion model trying to sell a product. Most brides I have known are a little more talkative.

The most disturbing part of the strip is the appearance of the ghost of Elly’s mom. It is disturbing because the ghost does not look even remotely like Elly’s mom. In fact, she looks more like someone took a drawing of Grandpa Jim and tried to feminize it. Elly’s mom is supposed to look like an older version of Elly with the same basic jaw and head features.

We have made jokes about how Grandma Marian’s dress does not look like it did in one strip years ago. However, Grandma Marian appeared in dozens of strips. There are many reference points for a correct drawing, and yet the artist chose to draw her as a generic old woman. If you need any more indication that the artist is just treading water until this thing is over, then this is it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

On Stealing from Thelma Baird

On first appearance, the strip used today on For Better or For Worse shows Elly disapproving of young Michael’s act of floral thievery from Mrs. Thelma Baird their neighbour, while at the same time encouraging him to be a better flower thief. The implication is that if Michael had left the stems on the flowers, so they could put in a vase and kept alive with water, then Elly would have used the flowers for decoration, presumably keeping them out of the sight of Mrs. Baird. The interesting part is that this story of Michael’s floral thievery is very similar to the story of Mrs. Baird’s first meeting with the Pattersons, described in her biography on the Who’s Who.

This is the quote from the Who’s Who on Thelma related to flowers from her garden:

As more houses were built along Sharon Park, Thelma had always gotten along well with her neighbours, but in a casual, over-the-fence kind of way. When the Pattersons moved in next door in 1980, she expected to have the same cordial, slightly distant relationship with them. Until, a week or so after their arrival, she caught four-year-old Michael in her garden with one of her prize roses tattered and torn in his small, grubby hand. "'Cause Mommy's sick today," he explained tearfully when she confronted him, "and your flowers are so pretty, I thought one would make her feel better."His big-eyed, woeful expression was too much for Thelma. She promptly went for her garden shears and helped an astonished and delighted Michael cut a lavish bouquet of roses, asters and daisies for his mother. She helped deliver it, too. This was too good an opportunity to miss, to meet her new neighbours. As it turned out, Elly Patterson was suffering from morning sickness, to which was now added embarrassment at her son's misbehaviour. Thelma reassured her, and over a cup of tea, listened as Elly poured out all her worries about mortgages, children and the stresses of moving into a new house with a husband who was working overtime to pay for it and rarely around to help. Thelma was thrilled. Someone needed her again! She promptly offered to take Michael to the nearby park for the afternoon to let Elly suffer in peace, and promised cuttings and roots from her own garden to help bring the Patterson yard into bloom.

There you have it. Thelma Baird not only permitted the Pattersons to have things from her garden, she considered it an act of neighbourly kindness for pregnant Elly. I do not have a copy of the collection of all the early strips, so I cannot tell if there were more stories about Mrs. Baird and her garden which would corroborate the Who’s Who story. In other words, I cannot tell if the Who’s Who story about Mrs. Baird and the garden is a retcon specifically intended to alter the way the strip used today for For Better or For Worse is perceived.

Viewing today’s strip as it stands, the correct form of action is for Elly to march Michael over to Mrs. Baird’s, show her the pulled flowers and exact a punishment for Michael by which he would pay Mrs. Baird back for the loss of her flowers. Even with the Who’s Who retcon, that is still the correct form of action. However, the implication is that Elly is less worried about Michael’s actions because she knows Mrs. Baird would gladly hand over those flowers anyway. In other words, it is all right to take advantage of your neighbours and friends. That is the Patterson way.

Babying the Boys

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, Elly sets the example of someone who espouses the feminist jargon of the 1970s and yet, falls into the traps the jargon warns against. It’s either that or one of these, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime” kind of things. So it would seem the next step is,”Teach a boy to do things for himself, and then women will have nothing to do in their spare time.”

Given Elly's history, I am not sure what she is trying to say here, except that she wishes Michael could clean his own room and get milk for himself. However, if I applied the statement to Elly herself, it has very little to do with training a boy to do something. Her situation occurred when she decided to marry John Patterson, quit school to support him financially, and then get pregnant as soon as John secured a good-paying job. The strip has portrayed these decisions as being Elly's own. I cannot recollect a moment where John or Elly said he forced her to do these things. In fact, in the strip reprinted back in September, it was a sore point with Elly's parents that she chose to give up her education. After all, John had to have a financial plan to finish dentist school before he met Elly; so Elly's self-sacrifice has always seemed to me a sacrifice for her own self.

As for the idea that if boys were trained to do things for themselves, then this problem (presumably the problem of women having to make a choice about their position) wouldn't exist, it is a pretty silly idea on the face of it. The difference in the division of labour between men and women has little to do with a man's knowledge of how to do household chores like cleaning his room. However, it does provide an interesting perspective from Elly. If she believes it to be true, then her perspective is that men cannot do household labour as they do not know how to do household labour, because they were not trained to do so as boys. Certainly this is reflected in the "instruction strips" where she tells John Patterson how to load a dishwasher or how to fold a towel. Now, there is a perfect example of a woman only having herself to blame for that ridiculous notion.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pattersons Eat Better Than Pigs, But Not Much

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Elly complains about Michael eating like a pig and she commands Michael to slow down. Michael protests that if he slows down for liver & spinach, he will taste it. Personally I like spinach. I am not so fond of liver. However, I understand the basic sense of it. Those are 2 foods traditionally most kids hate. Michael is hungry, but can’t stand the taste of his food; so he has found a way to get around that. Honestly, speed is not a bad method. It’s better than refusing to eat at all.

It reminds me of the story I heard about the man who learned how to survive in a prison situation on bread and water. The prison was dirty and infested with insects. The line was that if you use your bread to surround the cockroaches, they don’t taste nearly so bad. Or, the other story I remember is my grandparents who survived the Great Depression telling me things like, “You can eat dandelions and grass, if you cook them long enough.” So, really this is a story of human survival in many respects.

The easy way to go is to criticize Elly for being hypocritical. We know this from the retrospective of seeing strips from 1979 to 2008 where Lynn Johnston has shown the Patterson family, consistently through the years, as completely disgusting slobs when it comes to eating food. This is 1979, when Lynn Johnston is just starting. Maybe her vision of Elly Patterson, food slob, has not yet been formed.

But look at the strip carefully. When Elly says, “Where are your manners, Michael!”, there is no question mark. Then she does not tell Michael not to drool or slobber or spill his drink on the table or use a knife or use a napkin. She wants him to slow down because he is eating like a pig. In other words, the problem is one of speed, not cleanliness. The pattern is set here at the beginning. A Patterson can eat like a slob, but not a fast slob. Now there’s a lesson for us all.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Why Mike Writes and Does Not Work With Concrete

Concrete is interesting stuff. My dad learned the hard way with his stepson (my step-brother) that you if you have small children about, you have to watch it like a hawk until it dries. It’s also a good idea to cover it, if there is the chance of plant or animal life getting on it. In today’s For Better or For Worse, John Patterson apparently does not know these things. The joke is supposed to be that Michael Patterson should not be surprised how easily it is uncovered that he is the one who destroyed the concrete by putting his initial into it.

The real joke is that John Patterson did not allow his son to participate in some way, shape, form or fashion in the making of the concrete sidewalk. As for my children, they have a grandmother who intentionally gave each of them little squares of concrete for them to decorate with coloured stones and the like and put their name on, which are now permanent parts of the sidewalk to her house. The kids are delighted to see it, whenever they visit her.