Monday, November 30, 2009

Elly’s Gifts for Men

I have to admit that the one area where I find that Lynn Johnston still excels is coming up with humorous product names. With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse in the area of men’s cologne, we see Him, The Pits, Whiff Man, Testo Sterone, Tough, Male Scent, and Hunk. My favourite is The Pits. I was a little disappointed the only fishing gear name was The Big One. Ultimately Elly purchases After Shave, Homo Sapien and what appears to be an ancient bottle of some sort. I am not sure what Homo Sapien is with the 4-square diagram on the side – some kind of cube game?

The strangest part about this is that Elly seems to have completely forgotten what her brother is like. Cologne, aftershave and fishing equipment for Phil Richards? Hey, Elly! Your brother is a professional musician. Maybe you could buy him something musicians like, for example music. I know it would be hard to find some jazz trumpet music. There’s barely any around. Well, there are musicians like Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, etc.; but they are so obscure. Nobody’s ever heard of them.

Cologne and aftershave are an odd gift for a sister to give to a brother. Those are considered to be somewhat romantic gifts. In my experience, only girlfriends have ever given me those as gifts. Naturally, since Lynn has a tendency to go for examples from her own life to put in her strip, I suspect that these gifts are not really intended for Elly’s brother. Well, Tim Oliphant, now you know what Lynn is getting you for Christmas. She probably wanted to give you “The Big One” but that may be what she is expecting from you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we get to see Lynn Johnston blend together a number of her favourite themes in the new-runs:

1. I hate advertising.
a. John’s dislike of junk mail advertising
b. Elly’s dislike of the advertising for Whiffex 3.
c. Elly’s dislike of advertising for Hinkley’s Handy Haven

2. If the kids nag, Elly gives in.
a. Michael nags Elly to get treats in the store.
b. Michael nags Elly to go to the costume store.
c. Michael and Lizzie nag Elly to let them go outside.

3. The Pattersons have entertainment equipment which did not exist in this form in 1980. Today’s example is the TV remote control.
a. John and Ted go into a sports bar with a flat screen TV.
b. Michael and John play using almost modern video game boxes and controllers.

Despite all this repetition, the part of the strip that works for me is Elly discovering that children love repetition. My kids can watch the same movie or the same TV show over and over again. They can listen to the same songs over and over again. They can eat the same foods over and over again. They hate new things. They love the familiar and the repeated. Now you could argue that with Michael being 6-years old, Elly should have figured this out by now. However, when my daughter is watching an episode of iCarly, and I know that I have seen her watch the same episode at least 3 times, it still boggles my mind that she can stand to watch it again, instead of turning to another channel to see if there something else on she hasn’t seen.

Ironically, even though this is the part of the strip that works for me, Lynn Johnston seems to have missed it with her punch line: The most successful sales tool is repetition. I suppose I should take it for granted that if Lynn Johnston put something in her strip which was relevant to my life, it was by accident.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is she my REAL mother?

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse falls into a category of strips I would describe as “strips that make sense when you consider that Rod Johnston was Lynn’s son Aaron’s step-father.” I can imagine little Aaron Johnston over a period of time becoming aware of the differences between fathers and step-fathers. I can imagine him becoming aware that Rod was not his birth father. I can even imagine a young Aaron Johnston after a particularly difficult time dealing with his mother wondering if Rod and Lynn got it mixed up who was the step-parent.

As for me and my kids, we have never stepped down this trail. However, we have stepped down a different, but similar trail. Once my kids got old enough to understand what was dating was and understood that the reason they have 4 sets of grandparents instead of the standard 2 sets; they occasionally would ask questions like: If you married someone else, what would I look like? If you didn’t get married would I exist? These questions are kind of similar to the one little Michael asked.

As for this particular strip, the part I would find interesting is to learn why Michael thought Elly was not his mother. I would also be interested in knowing if this situation was taken from a real-life situation between Lynn and Aaron. There are a number of possibilities here for Michael’s question:

a. Michael doesn’t like cleaning, but Elly is obsessed with it.
b. Michael doesn’t like screaming, but Elly is obsessed with it.
c. Michael doesn’t like be in a bad mood all the time, but Elly is obsessed with it.
d. Michael secretly hopes that there is a woman out there who likes him, since Elly never seems to be happy with him.

Sadly, (d) is the one I can imagine being true-to-life. One of things I have recognized as we have gone through the For Better or For Worse reprints from the first year is, aside from Lynn Johnston doing so many “John is a male chauvenist pig” strips, the other character who takes a beating is young Michael Patterson. Once Aaron Johnston got the point where he could read, and he recognized he was Michael from his middle name, he might start to wonder why there were so many comic strips featuring him as a little hellion making life difficult for his mother.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Psychology of Pillow Fights

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Elly ends up clobbering John with his own pillow leaving him with a star of pain floating above his head, his glasses off his face, and his face turned against the pillow. The excuse given is that when talking over what guys think about, Elly questioned, “Like other women, for example?” and John said, “Yeah…” It seems like a fairly violent pillow attack to leave John in that state, and yet this is very common for this strip. Lynn Johnston seems to feel that a pillow fight is funnier the more violent it appears. She expects her readers will understand that no harm will come to the participants in a pillow fight, so that gives her licence to make the fight as violent as it possibly can be. This is not the first time Elly has whacked John in the head in the bedroom.

John gets whacked for complimenting Deanna’s appearance.

Mike and Elizabeth carry on the family tradition and have a very violent pillow fight, fearing being caught by Elly. If they only knew Elly's history on the subject.

This continues as Elizabeth hits with a pillow Mike for complimenting her appearance.

Later on the strip, Elly and John have a particularly vicious pillow fight, but consider that a sign of their relationship going well.

Elizabeth knocks April unconscious with a pillow for making smooching noises during her phone conversation.

John hits April for calling him a square, and does it hard enough that things go flying in the air.

In order for these fights to be consider humourous, you have to put them in the same kind of light as Sarge beating up Beetle Bailey. The more pitiful and broken Beetle looked after taking a beating from Sarge, the funnier the strip is. Another way to look at it is like Wile E. Coyote taking a beating from the Road Runner. Even though Wile is not really hurt taking a beating which would kill a real-life creature, the humour is extracted from his expression and body shape after the beating and the fact Wile E. Coyote is a villain and deserves it. I think either idea works here. For those who sympathize with John, we can think of Beetle Bailey. For those who think John is a heel, we can think of Wile E. Coyote getting his just desserts. There is something for everyone in a For Better or For Worse pillow fight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Return of Connie and Phil

Back last February, the relationship between Elly Patterson’s brother Phil Richards and her best friend, Connie Poirier reached a point where Phil admitted to Connie that he was not interested in her and she wrote a personal ad to seek after other men. The originally published sequence with Connie and Phil involved a storyline where Connie traveled to Montreal to visit Phil unexpectedly, leaving her son Lawrence in the care of Elly. When Lawrence was injured, Connie opted to stay in Montreal to pursue Phil, who ultimately told her that he was not interested. This was a low point in the life of Connie Poirier because it showed she would not only humiliate herself in pursuit of a man, but she would also put that pursuit ahead of the needs of her son. When this sequence did not appear last February, there was general rejoicing that perhaps Lynn Johnston had decided to excise this embarrassing bit from Connie’s life.

Here we are in November and with today’s new-run in For Better or For Worse, it appears that Lynn is getting ready to reintroduce the storyline. Connie Poirier has bought Phil his favorite scotch and a bathrobe, and tells Elly that she and Phil communicate on a higher level. All the conversation and resolution between Connie and Phil from last February seems to have been forgotten. I think Lynn Johnston hopes that her readers will forget that too.

Lynn Johnston’s motivation seems clear. The relationship between Connie and Phil ultimately leads into a lot of strips with Connie, Phil, Dr. Ted McCaulay, and the woman Phil marries, Georgia. Lynn probably feels she has to do the reprints so that she can lead into the straight reprints in Early Spring. I understand her motivation, but I am disappointed she is not getting rid of this awful story as I had hoped.

My favourite part of today’s strip is Connie’s gift choice and Elly’s reaction to it. Connie clearly plans to get Phil drunk and get naked with him. Elly only considers the bathrobe to be an intimate gift, and does not question the getting drunk with scotch part. Every time Lynn Johnston brings alcohol into her strip, I remember her drinking habits she mentioned in her trip to Oaxaca, where it seemed like Lynn’s diet consisted of snacks and beer. I interpreted it to be that Lynn Johnston drinks quite a bit. When Elly fails to mention the ramifications of the scotch to Connie, it just reinforces my interpretation. Elly thinks nothing of tossing back a bottle of scotch between friends, but the bathrobe shows intimacy. I expect Lynn Johnston thinks just the same way Elly does.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the diary of John Patterson

Dear Diary,

I hate carrots, especially when they are in the shape of a coin. Just the other night, my wife made a whole slow cooker full of carrot coins for supper. It was like my worst nightmare come true. Plus she made gigantic tossed salad that had more (you guessed it) carrots. We had been watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving where Snoopy makes a Thanksgiving dinner that consists of popcorn, toast, pretzels and multi-coloured snacks. It doesn’t sound like the kind of dinner your mother would make, but I suppose that is what you get when your dinner is served by a dog.

My son had on his zig-zag-striped, Charlie Brown homage shirt for the occasion and we went to the kitchen to see what Elly was serving for our American-style Thanksgiving dinner. Then I saw the carrots. My first thought was, “Chee! Snoopy’s dinner looks good compared to that. Maybe I do prefer dog food to mom food.” Then I saw what Farley the dog was eating out of his dog dish, and I started to get jealous of Farley. Mike said, “When’s supper, mom?” Elly said, “Soon. You’ll have to wait about 20 minutes.”

That was my chance. I knew what I had to do. A song came into my head. Not really a song, but an eighth note. I got out a bag of cookies which is so generic that is labeled “Cookies” on the side. Elly got the cookies from the same place she got the slow cooker, labeled “Slow Cooker” on the side. Those cookies hit the spot, yessiree! The kids and I ate them while we watched a program called Canada’s Best Big Mouths. The lady who won had a pretty big mouth but nothing compared to my Elly.

After about an hour, Elly called “Supper’s ready!” to us. We gathered around the table looking at our bounty of carrot coins and salad with carrot coins, I nearly wretched. Elly came in and said, “What’s the matter? I thought you were hungry!!” in that peculiar way Elly does when she speaks as if she had more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wouldn’t have eaten that food, even if I hadn’t eaten the cookies.

Thanks for listening, diary.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Elly Patterson and Lucy van Pelt: Sisters of Impatience

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse we have a comic strip which I know I have seen somewhere in Peanuts with Lucy van Pelt as the yeller, although not yelling at a Slow Cooker. I seem to remember it as Linus van Pelt telling Lucy that a watched pot doesn’t boil. Lucy ignores Linus and yells at the pot to hurry anyway.

The final panel where Elly has her nose in the air, her head tilted back without only her mouth visible is a visual language taken directly from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Normally at this moment, other characters in Peanuts would do a back flip in reaction to the yelling; but we have pretty much the Slow Cooker approximation to a back flip. I have noted many times over the past year when reprints stole directly from Charles Schulz’ style of art or humour; but this is the first new-run I recollect that did it. This is also the first time I have seen the strip with the punch line goes this far in ripping off Peanuts. I am embarrassed for Lynn Johnston.

The only other thing that strikes me about this strip is the use of the slow cooker. I didn’t remember Elly ever using a slow cooker. AMU reprints shows no slow cookers in its archives, but it does show a crock pot with a cute picture of a crocodile on it, which contrasted nicely with the milk with the cow picture on it in the same strip. At least in 2003, Elly finally figured out that these devices are for cooking the food for long periods of time.

I was tempted to entitle this Blog entry: Carrots: Elly’s Favourite Vegetable but the Peanuts rip-off was too distracting. Besides, as we know from Lynn’s Oaxaca trip entry #3, Lynn likes to buy carrots and give unwashed carrots to other unsuspecting people, but she doesn’t actually eat carrots.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elly and Snow: A Hate / Hate Relationship

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Elly continues her way of trying to spoil the kid’s fun and also being bullied by her children. The story today involves the kids’ desire to play in the snow versus Elly’s desire to be warm and cozy. Lizzie says, “AAAAAAAAGHH!” to the positive effect that it gets Elly out in the snow. The kids are young and they will eventually learn that Elly is not the “play in the snow” type of mom. In fact, as you can see from this strip, Elly is the “complain in the snow” type. The one who plays in the snow with the kids is John as you can see in this strip. The contrast between the two characters and their desire to play in snow was never more aptly contrasted as it was in this strip.

Back in 1980, the kids didn’t know that, and forced Elly to go outside. The final panel of the strip shows exactly how Elly plays in the snow, i.e. she stands there and looks cold. This is Elly’s usual snow time activity. The only thing which will get Elly actively out in the snow is fear for someone’s health.

When John comes up from I-don’t-know-where and makes his comment, “Aren’t you taking an appreciation for the outdoors a bit too far?” I can’t tell if he is commenting on how bad the weather is outside and his surprise his family is out there, of if he is snarking on Elly for being out in the snow with the kids and doing nothing with them but stand there like a lump.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Elly Halts Mutant-Style Running

Lynn Johnston loves to show dogs running with the forelegs completely back and the hind legs completely in front as she does two times in today's new-run of For Better or For Worse. Every time I see that, my mind immediately goes to the thought “Dogs don’t run like that.” For the purpose of illustration, here is a video of dogs running in slow motion and an Italian Greyhound running in slow motion. The Italian Greyhound comes the closest to approximating Farley’s gait, but even so, his hind legs do not pass the forelegs. As poorly as Farley’s gait is drawn, it still pales in comparison to that of Michael and Lizzie in the background, especially Michael. In Panel 1, Michael looks like one of those Lego figures, with awkwardly positioned legs due to having to attach the legs on the sides of the figure. In Panel 5, Michael’s knee appears to be all the way up to his chest. Lynn Johnston used to be able to draw running better than that for humans.

As for the purpose of the strip, it is nice to see the Pattersons enjoying their dog for a change in a method that does not involve inflicting pain on the dog. For second day in a row, Elly Patterson falls into the roll of “woman who doesn’t want people to have fun.” The implication from seeing Farley, Michael and Lizzie staring out the window at the storm while Elly looks on, is that Elly agrees with the kids and Farley continuing their chasing game. However, the crucial ingredient missing is to show Elly smiling or at least not frowning as the kids and Farley are tearing around the house in the last panel. For all we know, the kids could have waited until Elly left to go outside and shovel snow, before they started up their game again.

The best visual effect in the entire strip is where Elly’s storm cloud thought balloon in Panel 3 is right over a window showing the storm outside. It effectively illustrates how the kids are caught between 2 storms. At least Elly didn’t tell the kids to play Scrabble or chess as an alternative.

Meanwhile Back in Immoral 2009

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse shows John and Michael playing a video game of Booger Beasts with 2 video game controllers and their television. Intellivision came out in 1980. ColecoVision appeared in 1982. If the strip is considered to be set in 1980, what are John and Michael playing? Atari didn’t look like this. Once again Lynn Johnston has introduced an item which did not exist back in 1980, less than a month since she had a strip showing Elly using a typewriter. The only thing which is clear from point to point is that these new-run Pattersons flit back and forth between subjects depending on what strikes Lynn Johnston’s fancy with respect to time and space.

As for the purpose of the strip, it is a mystery to me. We see a household with the game Booger Beasts clearly available to be played, which shows someone with buying power in the house likes it well enough to buy it. On the other hand, Elly rails against the game in the following fashion:

1. She would rather John and Michael play checkers or scrabble or some other intellectually stimulated game.
2. She prefers games with goals and strategy and good moral values.
3. She does not prefer games that are gross and disgusting and having no education use, whatsoever.

Going to AMU reprints, I can find no evidence of Pattersons ever playing Scrabble. However, checkers is a different story. Duncan and April played checkers in this strip. And there is a strip with Michael and John playing checkers, which immediately reveals exactly why it is that John would prefer playing Booger Beasts to checkers, i.e. Michael is a sore loser when it comes to checkers. Of course, judging from Michael’s underbite expression in the final panel of today’s strip, he may also be a sore loser when it comes to Booger Beasts.

As for Elly’s complaints, these sound like the same old thing people have been complaining about for years, when judging the entertainment of the young. Instead of reading books, those kids today are:

a. Playing video games.
b. Watching television.
c. Listening to the radio

My father remembers clearly back in the days of radio entertainment, when people used to rail against the radio entertainment programs on the premise that kids were listening to them instead of reading books. The argument was that if you turned the radio off, the kids would pick up books and start reading away. It was nonsense then, just as Elly’s argument that checkers and scrabble somehow represent good morals is nonsense today. Those old fogies of the 1930s and 40s have a lot in common with Elly today. John and Michael, like many intelligent people in the past, do whatever a person does when faced with someone like Elly --- ignore her until she goes away.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse is one of the most insidious kind, because after viewing it, people may actually get the idea to try what Michael does to Lizzie and stick Strawberry Jam in their toddler's ears to try and get their dog to lick them. My wife used to work as an audiologist and the phrase I heard from her over and over is “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!”

Years ago, when I was a young lad, I was playing a game with a friend where I hid a piece of paper on my person and he had to guess where it was. I rolled up the paper and stuck it in my ear. Success! My friend had no idea where it was; but then I discovered I couldn’t get it out. My father tried to remove with a pair of tweezers and I passed out from the pain. The next day, the doctor took it out with a pair of very long, very thing, tweezer-like implements. No problem, but I still remember passing out.

Don’t put stuff in your ears, and especially don’t put stuff in your one-year-old sister’s ears. I don’t care how cute Lynn Johnston makes it.

NOTE: I will be on a Boy Scout over night trip tonight, so if there are any entries tomorrow, they will be late.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Friends Ask Good Questions. Stupid Friends….

In today’s new-run in For Better or For Worse, we see Elly Patterson trotting out the “Why I am Going to Quit Creative Writing” excuses. Apparently enough time has passed that Elly is not longer sick, and apparently Lynn Johnston has opted not to show Elly having a prolonged illness. Instead Lynn Johnston has opted to list a series of excuses.

1. “Last week, Lizzie was sick, then I was.” Hum. We saw Elly get sick and she says that time occurred after Lizzie was sick, which we did not see. Since Lizzie was sick last week, this implies that whole period of sickness was at best one week. Let us recollect that this is a night class held once a week. Even though Elly has mentioned 2 illnesses, this can only account for 1 missed class. Not only that, but why would Elly need to miss a class because Lizzie is sick? John was already planning to take care of the kids that night anyway.

2. John had a meeting one week and we couldn’t find a sitter. I presume this is one occasion and not two. It appears that Elly has forgotten "Annie is just a call away." I also wonder why Elly never considers Connie as possible baby-sitting material. She always seems to go to Anne or hire someone. To tell Connie that she had to skip a class she desperately wants to take because she couldn't find a sitter, seems just a tad on the insulting side if you are Connie.

That’s our list. 2 missed classes, and Elly is frustrated because she wants to write and she can’t because she missed 2 classes. Connie then counters that if Elly really wanted to write, she would have already done her Christmas newsletter. If Elly lived in the United States she would hear my cry, “But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” Or other possible alternatives are:

a. Do you know there is a difference between writing a newsletter and writing a fiction story?
b. And what does that have to do with anything? I haven't addressed Christmas cards either.
c. Are you saying that you are not a good friend? Because that certainly was not a good question.

Ironically, going back to the beginning of this, Elly has chosen to do Creative Writing because she “had to run out of excuses before (she) ran out of time.” It seems like Elly is pretty good at making those excuses. Maybe she should write a book of excuses.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meanwhile, Back in the Days Before Car Seats

In today’s reprint in For Better or For Worse, we see young Michael Patterson, who is 6-years-old in the redo version of the strip and was 5-years-old in the original publication, sitting in the front seat with only a seat belt to protect him. Although the strip is ostensibly to show how much Elly appreciates Michael’s wish that he could make her feel better, judging from the last panel, with Elly pulling young Michael Patterson out of his seat and across her chest while she is driving, I think that perhaps the true purpose of the strip is to demonstrate the need for a car seat for young Michael.

However, I am showing the car seat bias of my country. As near as I can tell from an internet search, Canadian child safety seat laws are a lot less stringent than those of the United States. According to the internet search, in Canada parents and guardians are required to use child safety seats for toddlers (0-18 kg). Since Michael is supposed to be 6 years old and the average weight for a 6-year-old boy is about 21 kg, it is legal for Michael not to be in a car seat. For my purposes, I did check to see about the availability of car seats back in 1979. I found this history and this history and this history.

Even in the United States, back in 1979, the use of car seats was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, but they were available. I remember my childhood in the 1960s, when I used to ride in the back window of the car or in the floor board. I loved those times. In the back window, I could look at the stars and listen to the radio, because the speaker was right by my head. In the floorboard was where the heater was, and it was the warmest place in the car on days when it was cold. Of course, looking at the history of car seats, I realize now that I was one of the fortunate kids who did not end up in a car accident, which would have surely killed me being in either of those positions. Car seats dramatically decreased the number of deaths of children in cars, just as the introduction of seat belts cut the number of automobile deaths for adults by a very high percentage.

Looking at Michael in the final panel, I want to caption his thoughts. I think they must be:

a. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe!
b. Yikes! I wish I could make you smell better.
c. Look out for that truck!
d. Both hands on the wheel, dammit!
e. I guess I’m going to get sick too! Thanks, mom!
f. I like it when she screams at me more than this.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Elly vs. the Monster Head

Elly doesn’t say a word (or even think a word) in today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse. In fact, this strip was made for reaction faces from Elly. It’s too bad she doesn’t give any. She’s giving Michael looks as if he were a stray dog following her around or as if she is wondering where she needs to be. This is one of the oddest things about the new-runs vs. the reprints from the first year. The first year strips used to be filled with Elly's facial reactions to the things going on around her. Just going back to the “I want my mom” strip from Monday, Elly’s facial reactions are what make that strip work. With the modern stuff, all we get is blank looks.

Instead of Elly, we have the verbal enthusiasm of young Michael Patterson over his monster head. The punch line is that he managed to think of something so awful that his creativity was censored by the fine folks at KidKraft. In other words, isn’t it so cute that boys like gross and disgusting things, and think they are cool? Don't think too hard about what Michael would have to create that would be too gross to be allowed. Could it be Satan?

As for the saga of Elly and her illness I don’t know what to think of it. Thanks to having to pick up Mike, Elly could be sick until 11:45, but then doesn’t manage to stay in bed even until then. Her style of nightgown completely changed, which made me think a day had passed. But then we see her looking reasonably healthy (except for the nose) when picking up Mike, so it has to be the same day, unless the teachers have more than one day off. It seems like Elly has managed to be infected by the "Pity me" disease, which only flares up with Elly wants pity.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Walking Dead

I remember seeing a sequence in one of those old zombie movies, where the live humans go to a shopping mall and see the zombies going through the motions of shopping as if they were re-enacting their former pre-zombie lives. In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, I was reminded of that moment seeing Elly going through the motions of doing laundry, even though she looks like she has lost 20 pounds and all her hair from her illness.

Here’s a joke for you: How are zombie Elly Patterson and sick Elly Patterson alike?

Answer: They both are looking for brains.

At least in today's strip, we see a hint of the old style of treating Elly Patterson, where Lynn Johnston would set us up to laugh at Elly's very human nature. I have to admit that I have been known to do work (not laundry) when I was supposed to be in bed resting. I like the fact that this is not a moment where Elly is doing the laundry when she is ill to show how tough she is, or what a great mom she is, or how awful her family is to her. It's not a great strip, but it comes off well compared to some of the awful strips we have seen in the last year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Want My Mom (Hint. Hint.)

About 3 minutes into the 1980 CBC interview with Lynn Johnston is her physical re-enactment of today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse. It’s fun to see that interview considering that 50% of the strips we have seen over the last year came from Lynn during that time period.

As for the claims of Elly Patterson, they are pretty much the case. We have seen her take care of the kids when they were sick, read them stories (and maybe not rocking them to sleep), and we have seen Elly rub John’s back. The part which strikes me at this point, after 30 years of observing the strip is the phrase “I want my mom!”

In later years, Grandma Marian became a port-mortem, sentimentalized favourite, but it was a rarer occurrence when the real-life Grandma Marian was still alive. However, when it comes to illness, Grandma Marian did still receive positive notice from Elly Patterson as in this strip. Whatever ill feeling Lynn had towards her mother, she seemed to appreciate the positive attention her mother gave her when she was sick.

At the heart of the matter though, is the idea that no one takes care of a sick mother. With my wife, taking care of her when she was sick during our courtship years, was a significant test as to whether I was husband material. Although we saw John make arrangements for the kids in Saturday's strip, I notice that even in the new-run strip on Friday, John does little more for Elly than tell her to go to bed and promise her that she can take tomorrow off (a promise he fails to keep).

After all, it’s one thing to say that your husband doesn’t help you with the kids or around the house, but even the traditional 1950s husband would step up when his wife was sick. Nevertheless, I am sure that many men don’t do this for their wives and let them fend for themselves even when they are sick. No doubt today’s strip strikes those women where they live. This is a significant slam against John Patterson. After all, the line is:

For better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward
until death do us part.

John is failing the sickness part, and back in the 1980 CBC interview, this, of all strips, is the one that Lynn Johnston chose to re-enact. Even 29 years later looking at it, I feel for Dr. Rod Johnston. I can imagine the first time someone said to him, "Dr. Johnston. What kind of doctor are you that you don't take care of your wife?"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another Farley Abuse Strip

Some months back, I wrote into the For Better or For Worse Coffee Talk community to complain about the disturbing trend in the strip’s new-runs to show Farley the dog being abused and I specifically mentioned this strip with Elly brushing Farley as an example. Since then, we have had Farley forced into wearing women’s underwear, Farley getting shaved, and Farley frightened by lightning (which isn’t all that bad).

And then we have today’s new-run in For Better or For Worse with the most blatant example of Farley abuse to date. At the end of 6 solid panels of Elly screaming at Farley, Farley ends the sequence by licking Elly’s feet, which is a geniune sign of affection for a dog, or an inclination to lick the feet for the salty taste. Although after taking a good look at Elly’s naked feet, I can easily see why it is that Lynn most often has Elly wearing shoes or socks. Those things are hideous, but they do look very salty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Craft Class Critique

Lynn Johnston did a pretty good job yesterday in imitating the night gown Elly Patterson is wearing in today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse. It’s too bad she didn’t bother to read the strip to see that “Mike is in craft class” as opposed to “Mike is at home all day because of the teacher’s professional development day.” It’s possible that she read the bit about the craft class and decided to ignore it so she could slam the teachers for having a professional development day. It’s also possible she read “Mike is in craft class” and realized she had to come up with a reason why Mike would be there instead of being at school. Or maybe all of the above.

It seems highly unlikely that John Patterson could score a craft class for Michael at the last minute (unless a vacancy came up because someone got a divorce). It has to have been planned all along that on the teacher professional development day, Mike was going to a craft class. That would make logical sense and it would have been appropriate for Lynn to have put that little detail into her new-run. Of course, if she had done that then little Michael would not have been able to lay that threat of destroying things quietly on Elly in the final panel of yesterday’s strip. That huge laugh I got from a son threatening his mother would have been gone. I would have missed it so. In that case, it seems clear to me that the humour from that situation outweighs those little things like “making sense” or “coherent story.”

As for the overall arc for the week, we get introduced to Elly’s writing and the reason for her dropping the writing all in one week. To really make this illness stick as a player in quitting Creative Writing, Elly is going to have to be sick for awhile for it to make sense. A single missed class is not sufficient in real life. I wonder if that is what Lynn has in mind, or will Elly instantly quit? I certainly hope so. I can’t wait for the outlandish excuse Elly will lay on us as her reason.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Is That Look?

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we get to Panel #4 and Elly Patterson says, “I forgot! Teachers have a professional development day tomorrow.” This is in reference to Mike’s statement that like Elly, he has tomorrow off (from school). Elly’s face has her eyelids halfway down her eyes showing her pupils just below her eyelids, her eyebrows raised up her head, and a triangle mouth with the points going down. All this tells me is that Elly is unhappy about what she is saying. She is rolling her eyes at Mike’s statement. The question then is why?

John has told Elly she is taking a day off, which is pretty much every day for nonworking Elly. So, it must mean that John plans to take care of the kids while Elly rests. Elly has discovered that she will not have the house free of Michael, but that just means John will be taking care of Michael. No big deal. Of course, with John Patterson, Elly taking a day off may only mean that he is giving her permission to ignore her children and stay in bed, while he goes off to work. Considering John’s character, that would not be unusual.

Assuming that John is staying home, is Elly perturbed because she wishes Michael were not going to be staying home, so she could get more rest? Or is Elly perturbed by the idea that teachers have a professional development day?

The two are both related, so she could be perturbed by both. However, the first time I saw the strip, what immediately came into my head was that Elly Patterson is perturbed at the teachers. Is she perturbed because they are doing the profesional development day when she is sick, or is she perturbed teachers would even have a professional development day? This goes to Lynn’s sense of a work ethic. If Elly is willing to go to her class while sick, shouldn’t the teachers be willing to go to the classroom every day?

In the school system that my kids attend, the teachers also have professional development days. It is on those days when I wonder how it is that parents, where both parents work, can operate. My daughter has a half day of school on Wednesday, every Wednesday. This has been a practice of the school system since she was in kindergarten. My son in high school has half-days on a consecutive Tuesday and a Wednesday once a month. When I was growing up, the day was called Teacher Work Day, not Professional Development Day, even though my mom (a school teacher) often went to large convocations on those days, where she would hear a lecture on how to improve as a teacher.

It’s difficult to tell where Lynn Johnston stands on the subject. She has not been afraid to mock certain professions in the past, like police officers and lawyers, for things about their profession she does not like. Plus Lynn has said over and over in interviews that the secret to success is to show up on time. The use of the whole phrase “professional development day” and Elly’s eye roll may be the only clues we get as to Lynn’s opinion.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The First Whoa! of 2009

We have seen the word “Whoa!” occur in 4 strips since beginning the new-runs in September, 2008. They were all in 2008. Today's new-run of For Better or For Worse is the first “Whoa!” used in the strip for the year 2009. In 2008, they were used here and here and here and here. Naturally, you are not seeing “Whoa!” used in the reprints, because 1980 was pre-Keanu Reeves.

As for the topic of the strip itself, it appears that Lynn is using the same excuse she used at the beginning of the year in her weekly letters for Elly to drop out of her Creative Writing class.

Unfortunately, I ended up with this flu as well, and it hit (of course) on the day of my Creative Writing class. Since I’ve now missed the first two classes and am waaaaaaaay behind in the readings, I’ve decided to drop the course for this term. I don’t want to want to do badly at it, and it would be a struggle to catch up now. Perhaps it will be easier to juggle kids, house and classes during the summer semester.

The difference this time is that Elly Patterson is not getting the flu on the first day of class. She is far enough into class to have written something. Naturally, Lynn must up the ante for getting Elly out of class, so Elly has a temperature of 104 degrees, which is pretty high.

Lynn has taken the “Elly in Creative Writing Class” storyline down a considerably different path than she did in 1981. We have not yet seen the strip with Elly in the classroom being bored by the teacher, which I was sure was going to make the reprint list after Lynn drew the strip with the same teacher giving Elly directions to the classroom. Not only that but Elly’s essay was on her childhood and not about her travails as a housewife or mother. For some reason, Lynn seems to want to make Elly seem like a serious student this time. This trend first started when she redid Elly’s reason for leaving university to be her desire to write.

Elly's interest in her degree was fading by this time and she wanted to get out and WRITE! She left university early to work in a bookstore and do some freelance writing while John finished up his dentistry training.

As I look back on the 30-year run of the strip, what I saw was a woman who talked a lot about wanting to write, but never being very serious about it. Later on, when John buys her Lilliput’s, it turns out that Elly’s talent is more in small business ownership than writing. Elly finally seemed to be happy to have fulfilled her work life. When she retired and sold Lilliput’s, she never mentioned her desire to work outside the home again.

With this sequence of new-runs, Lynn is turning this around so that Elly is in pursuit of a career where she is motivated and does have some talent. That adds an air of tragedy to the strip in the long term, because now Elly’s work at Lilliput’s seems to have derailed her from pursuing her goal, instead of actually being her goal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lock up your raccoons and potatoes!

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, it is revealed that Elly’s story about her childhood consists of a story where she put a potato in her grandpa’s tailpipe and boiled a dead raccoon on her mother’s stove. For those of us who were expecting stories like Elly did the last time (i.e. stories about being a housewife and mom), these stories are a shock. It makes young Elly seem like a mischievous and interesting little girl, of the Tom Sawyer variety. In other words, it doesn’t seem even remotely like a girl who would end up being Elly Patterson.

For those of you interested in boiling raccoon, here and here are websites with raccoon recipes. I think Lynn Johnston considered this to be a practical joke, but if she did, it is not one I have ever heard of before. The same cannot be said for the classic “ potato in the tailpipe” trip. As to whether the “potato in the tailpipe” trick works, check out this website.

The real humour of the story is supposed to be that young Michael realizes that his mother did things he is not allowed to do, and therefore, his little mind is filled with ideas of things to do, for which he had been previously restrained. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander (or raccoon, as it may be). I suppose this means that since Elly did these things, then it is OK for Michael to do these things,

Monday, November 09, 2009

Elly’s Story / Lynn’s Strip Parallels

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse has such odd parallels with Lynn’s own writing method, it is difficult to ignore:

1. Judging from the clothes compared to yesterday's strip, Elly writes her story in less than a day. When I look back on the old website “Making Of” section, it appears that Lynn Johnston did much the same thing. She would sit down one day and write up the whole week’s worth of strips. Good stories take a little longer to write, but either this difference is lost on Lynn, or she is trying to show how slight Elly's story is.

2. Elly’s story is a story about her childhood. For Better or For Worse is largely based on a story of Lynn Johnston’s own life. Both women did not choose to write about things they don’t know. After all, Lynn’s original idea was to call her strip “The Johnstons”.

3. Elly can’t get the pages of her story organized to find the first page. It should be noted that after all these reprints, Lynn Johnston still has not reprinted the very first strip she published.

4. Elly is nervous reading to her own family. In this case, Lynn is nervous presenting material to her own family, i.e. her devoted fans. Although much has been made of Lynn’s inability to admit mistakes graciously, I still remember very clearly how concerned she was when she found out a large portion of her readership did not like the character of Anthony Caine.

5. John tells Elly to relax about reading her story. Michael says no matter how bad it is, he will enjoy it. Here the family represent the loyal Lynn Johnston fans. John represents the readers who will accept whatever stuff Lynn churns out. Michael represents the snarkers who are more than happy to point out to Lynn how bad her material is.

This also summarizes why Elly is nervous. Elly knows her family is accepting and yet also her worst critics, because they will pay attention to what she writes. In many respects that is the biggest problem with us snarkers. We notice when Lynn Johnston makes mistakes because we are so devoted to the material. Take the Fred and Frank the fish problem. Fred appeared in the September, 2008 strips. Frank was the naming mistake made in a January, 2009 strip and in last week' strips. That’s 4 months between the first set of strips and 10 months to the next set. Only members of Lynn’s devoted family of readers have the wherewithal to notice those kinds of errors over such a long period of time. Other less devoted readers are saying, “Michael has a fish?” and "Why are Michael and Lizzie so little?"

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Typewriter

With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, it appears that Lynn Johnston has fully embraced the idea that the storyline is set back in the 1980s, with the appearance of a typewriter. Back on February 7, 2009, Lynn Johnston redrew a strip featuring Connie Poirier typing on typewriter, so that it appeared that Connie was typing her personal ad on a generic keyboard. Lynn had specifically mentioned typewriters as one of those items she knew were not associated with modern times in her Maclean’s interview in August, 2008:

Q: You talk about reaching a new generation with the strip but it’s a very different generation than existed in the ’70s, pre-Internet, pre-YouTube. How are you adjusting to that?

A: Well, I’ve just gone past a couple of strips that were really funny — they were both about a typewriter, and those are both gone. Not because I didn’t think they were good. I just didn’t think it would go. So it’s not as if I’ll change things. I just won’t include them if they don’t have any relationship to today.

In the Q&Eh section of the website, it specifically says that the strip is taking place in the modern day:

Q: Hi, now that FBOFW has had a reboot, what year is it supposed to be taking place?

A: It's taking place in the modern day.

In today’s strip, we actually see Elly loading standing paper into what appears to be a typewriter. You don’t do that with modern computers, so there can be no mistake – Elly is using a typewriter. When Lynn Johnston failed to correct the prices in the 8-31 and 10-2 strips, I had a feeling she was done with doing the strip in the modern day. On the other hand, there was always a possibility that she had just grown too lazy to do those kinds of corrections. With the drawing of the typewriter in a new-run, it is no longer a case of a correction. Lynn Johnston had to intentionally draw that typewriter.

In many respects this makes sense. Lynn plans to go to straight reprints in Early Spring, and in order for that to appear like it was set in modern times, there are many strips which would require correction. If Lynn admits the strips are set in 1980s, then there is no problem with straight reprints starting from a time period of Early Spring, 1981. There was always a significant problem with Lynn’s decision to set the strip in the modern day, i.e. Lynn is too removed from society to know what modern day is like. She was just asking for trouble when she made that proclamation.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Mike’s Mythology of Rain

The first 2 introductory (delete them if you want) panels of today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse fall into the “animals and kids are scared of thunderstorms” variety of strips, which Lynn Johnston has done before. For example, here and here and here. Those are usually pretty cute strips, but Lynn Johnston is not satisfied. Normally on the Sunday before Remembrance Day, Lynn Johnston does a Remembrance Day strip.

So, in honour of that occasion, she has decided to tie in war-making with thunderstorms. In order to do that, she ditches the frightened Farley and has young Michael Patterson tell younger Elizabeth Patterson a variety of stories about what makes thunder and lightning. At the end young Elizabeth yells at the clouds to stop fighting, and that is about as far as Lynn Johnston is going to go for this Remembrance Day. It makes me really miss Grandpa Jim, who could always be counted on to do a decent Remembrance Day strip.

Michael’s explanations have a number of sources, which I think I have figured out.

First is the explanation that it is when clouds bump their heads together, it makes electricity. This is actually correct. During a thunderstorm, water droplets and ice crystals in the clouds bump together (not heads, but close) and break up as they rub against each other in strong currents of air, which results in the static electrical charges that ultimately are released as lightning bolts.

Second is that thunder is the gods of war, going into battle with horses and chariots. Mike has to mention that he saw that on TV, so we won’t get the impression that there are some flaws in the education system. I did not find this exact mythology, however I did find that there are some gods, who are both gods of war and thunder: Indra and Perun. In many mythologies, there are separate gods for war and thunder.

Third is that rain is when angels cry. This could be from the Leann Rimes song 10 Thousand Angels Cried (which resulted in rain in the song).

Fourth is that when the sun comes out, the angels laugh. I think this one is from the poem “Rainbows, Stars, and Butterflies” by an anonymous author, which relates angels to a variety of weather phenomena and it goes like this:

Rainbows, Stars, and Butterflies
by Anonymous

Perhaps it was the sunshine or it may have been the rain,
that let me find a place I'd lost when hate I had gained.
I searched among forgotten dreams then paused with a sigh,
for on a nearby cloud I found "Rainbows happen when angels cry".
Questions I began to find, and answers for each one.
What is the source of butterflies, the rising of the sun?
"The sun comes up when angels laugh" was written on the moon,
and "Butterflies are angel smiles" was on a flower's bloom.
Snowflakes I found with a teddy bear, a friend of many years.
Snowflakes", he said with shining eyes, "are happy angel tears".
"Break an angel's heart, a star goes out" hung from a cruel thorn.
By first love's light, in letters bright "when it mends, a star is born".
As I left that place a kindly voice whispered from above,
"There is a thing you can do which exceeds these wonders grand."
Then two words sweet, in letters neat appeared in the sand........ "People Love".

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, Elly attempts to write a letter to her mother while her children show more affection for her than they have in the last year. I suppose this means that Michael and Lizzie are like the cat who doesn’t want you to read the newspaper and jumps in your lap every time you try. This is the letter, as it appears:

Dear Mom,
Just thought.
I hope________
Michael is very
his teachers s[ay]
We are looking fo{rward}
Phil will be com{ing}
can put both..."made cookies o{}
ate so much doug[h]
but should be a
chocolate chips s
pockets full of melt
The pattern you
don[ ]is close to
them Lizzie is
Elly and

And now I will fill in the blanks for you, to help you understand what Elly was trying to say.

Dear Mom,

Just thought.some thoughts. It was very exciting.
I hope you can think too.
Michael is very dirty. No matter how much I scrub him, he never comes clean. However,
his teachers say he is a troublemaker and will never amount to anything.
We are looking forward to when
Phil will be coming to visit us, but mainly Connie is. We
can put both of them together. I made cookies out of scratch, but I
ate so much dough, I threw up. I was a mess
but should be able to convince John that the
chocolate chips sticking to the chesterfield came from
pockets full of melted cookies and not mine.
The pattern you see on the chesterfield
don[ ]is close to the pattern of the chesterfield. The kids were concerned but I told
them Lizzie is infected, and I got her disease.

Elly and Mr. Porn head, John

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Return of Frank the Fish part IV

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Michael and Elly are having a conversation about Frank the Fish, as if they were two sisters who just buried an elderly relative, and now they are busy complimenting themselves on what a nice job they did. That sets up the joke -- Farley the dog is digging up the gravesite – so it wasn’t as nice a funeral as they had planned after all. In other words, the first 4 panels were a setup for the Farley digs up the grave joke. I don’t mind this strip as much. Aside from Michael sounding like he was an old woman, the joke did not rely on lame wordplay, but a visual joke. That is always better than bad wordplay for the punch line.

On the other hand, the dialogue to set up the final panel joke coming out of Michael is so not like a little kid, it is far funnier than the joke of the strip. You can tell how much these words are from Lynn Johnston when Michael says, “Frank the Fish”. The use of the phrase “the Fish” where something has the name of what it is, has been a running joke of mine ever since Lynn used the phrase last year to describe Farley and to point out that it was Farley the Dog and not Farley Mowat the author. Coming out of Michael, it sounds like there is another Frank that Michael knows, who met an ignominious end and did not have a nice funeral.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Return of Frank the Fish part III

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we get to see the funeral of Frank the Fish, and the reactions of the Patterson kids to the event. Or rather, we see the reactions of a 60-year-old woman in the body of a kid.

1. Frank doesn’t look like Frank any more. This is the classic reaction of adults going to an open coffin viewing. How much does the person in the coffin remind them of the person they knew in real life? Sometimes they look dramatically different, and this comment comes up. As for me, this is a comparison I never made as a kid when one of my pets died.

2. Elly hands Michael a jewelry box and tells him it is a little coffin. A regular 6-year-old, without any experience with death would ask his mom what a coffin was.

3. John buries Frank and asks if anyone has a few words to say. Kids without any experience with funerals would ask: Why did you put Frank under the ground? A few words about what?

It is as if Lizzie and Michael are old hands, well-experienced with funerals. The things you would expect Michael to talk about aren’t touched on at all. Frank is not just sleeping. Frank’s body has stopped working. Frank is not coming back. It’s OK to cry about Frank. It’s OK to still love Frank. There was the potential for a touching strip here; but Lynn Johnston cannot get her head out of her body and into a 6-year-old’s head.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Return of Frank the Fish part II

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we get to see if the death of Frank the Fish will be like the death of Mr. B or like Farley. It appears to be like Mr. B. John Patterson’s input, as usual, is that the dead animal did not get enough attention from the kids. He actually said this directly to April regarding Mr. B. Even in 2002, John Patterson was an asshat.

As for Elly, she provided the time of death for Mr. B and declared his death to be a miracle. However, she did not guilt April about her care of Mr. B, as Elly does to Michael today, where she implies that he is at least partially responsible for Frank’s death. I love it when Elly talks about things with authority. My all-time favourite was when she provided Grandpa Jim’s post-stroke diagnosis, where we learned that a stroke was an injury to the brain resulting in inflammation.

Michael has had quite a week. On Hallowe’en, his dad steals his candy. On the day after Hallowe’en, his mom throws out his candy. On Monday, his fish dies. On Tuesday, his mom blames him for killing his fish, and his dad says he didn’t give the fish enough attention. Can his week get any worse? This is Lynn Johnston we are talking about. Of course it will get worse.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Return of Frank the Fish

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we return again to one of the only new characters introduced into the storyline – Frank the Fish. Frank’s one and only appearance was in this strip from January 10, 2009. Lynn Johnston appears to be sticking with the name Frank, even though the fish was originally named Fred during its first appearance in September, 2008 at the beginning of the new-runs.

The last appearance of Fred the fish was in this strip. As you can tell, the last appearances of Fred and Frank the fish could easily lead you to a conclusion about how they might perish. Fred could get accidentally dumped out of his bowl while riding in a wagon. Frank could be accidentally eaten by Farley. In fact, those were my presumptions considering often the fish appeared in the strip.

Now Frank has reappeared, but he appears to be dead. How long he has been dead it is difficult to say. He could have actually died back in January, for as much attention has been paid to him in the strip. When you get right down to it, this may be one of the most ordinary animal deaths Lynn Johnston has done in this strip. Everyone remembers the heroic death of Farley as a high point in the strip. The death of Mr. B the bunny does not warm the hearts of most people. As Mr. B was lying in April’s arms, his shiver was interpreted as a death rattle by Dr. Elly, who nauseated us with talk of miracles occurring. Then, if Mr. B’s tumor did not get him, certainly Elly putting him in the freezer did. The last part of this charming tale was April getting a new bunny, while Mr. B was still in the freezer.

With Lynn Johnston at the height of her story-telling powers, just what will she do with Elly and Michael discussing the death of Frank the fish? Will she go for heart-warming, or will she go with stomach-churning? In today’s strip, Michael checks Frank’s temperature with his finger for illness. That’s kind of cute, and it is not a repeat of something Lynn has already done in the strip. We’ll just have to wait and see how Lynn plays it. I have high hopes.

Lynn visits Gatineau for the Rendez-vous International de la Bande Dessinée

Lynn Johnston went to the Rendez-vous International de la BD (bande dessinée=comic strip) de Gatineau Quebec. As usual I will quote the parts on which I want to comment:

I was asked to participate as a guest and as a guest speaker recently at the Rendez-vous International de la BD (bande dessinée=comic strip) de Gatineau Quebec. (whew!) This is an annual gathering of Quebec cartoonists, many of whom are well known illustrators, graphic novelists, animators and magazine artists. I was delighted to be in the midst of a serious, talented and accomplished group of people who are well known and well respected in the province of Quebec.

And then after making this statement the number of illustrators Lynn Johnston mentions is 0.

It seems this is one place in North America where cartooning really IS considered art- and there is even a university course dedicated to this art form!

That is, aside from the programs at Brigham Young University , Westwood College Southwestern College , Collins College, Ferris State University, University of Southern California and the Rochester Institute of Technology

There was a strike going on outside the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where the “BD” was held, and visitors were uncomfortable crossing the picket line, as were we.

Uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable as to refuse to do it and give up that money. This is a news article talking about the strike.

We had an hour to draw (on a 4X6 piece of suspended canvas) an image of ourselves at the age of ten.

Take a look at the pictures in the link and see if you can spot the one of Lynn at age 10.

After 5 days, I felt like one of the guys and was even sputtering some phrases in my high school French. It's times like this I so regret being a jerk in school and refusing to learn when I had the chance.

A regular theme with Elly Patterson.

I’ve gotta tell you what happened with Andie... She snores, now. She told me so, but I figured it would be just a fweep or a snozz...but she snores like a TRAIN!!! I tried for awhile to manage. I gently touched her side and asked her to roll over, but by 1am, I was getting desperate. I pushed Kleenex into my ears, put a pillow on my head, but I still couldn't sleep. Around 2am I was going crazy. I shoved her and said- “Andie! You've gotta shut up!!! “ She snorted, apologized and went into the can. For a LONG time. I fell asleep. About an hour later, I woke up and she was not in the room. She was nowhere to be found and all her stuff was still there! Well...she had gone down into the lobby, wearing her blue flannel jammies (covered in moons and stars) and her red fuzzy socks, carrying a pillow. She asked the night clerk to let her sleep on a couch in the lobby, but was refused. She asked to sleep on a bench in the gym, but the gym opened at 6am. After some discussion about where she could stay for the night, she was given a small room that's only used for emergency overflow for 60 bucks. Bonzai!! Next morning, she wandered back to my room to use her toothbrush and get dressed. When she told me where she'd gone, I laughed so hard! Stories like this have made our friendship a constant adventure and I'll love her for life!!!

Andie’s reaction is fairly extreme if she resorted to leaving the room, especially the part where she went to the can for a long time before making this trek to the hotel lobby to find another place to sleep. Somehow, I have the feeling that Andie does not find this story as funny as Lynn does.

Well, that topped off my week in Gatineau. I have just come home from the IFOA- The International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront in Toronto.

Here is the reference to that event

By having a children’s book on the market, I now have the challenge of talking to a much more critical crew! It went well- which means , once again I was talking to a room full of cartoonists and was able to just speak from the heart.

I think I missed a transition there. She went from more critical to treating them just like she did at the other festival.

This ends my book related commitments for 2009. I don’t know if I’ll do any book touring next year- there MAY not be another book for awhile…but the fun of being with book people is almost enough to make one want to start working on something new. Lynn J.

This is a lot less enthusiastic about a next book than Lynn Johnston has been in prior interviews where she said that she and Beth Cruikshank were definitely working on one. Maybe those HarperCollins Children’s Book editors have (a) looked at the sales of the last book or (b) heard about the way Lynn Johnston crucified them in public on her previous engagements doing publicity to sell the book.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


My guess is that today’s rerun of For Better or For Worse came from a very early time in the strip before Lynn Johnston had established that the Pattersons have the Nichols on one side of them and Mrs. Baird living on the other side of them and Connie Poirier living across the street from them. Otherwise, I would have to say that this strip is not occurring in the Patterson’s neighbourhood. Even granting that situation, it seems extraordinary to me that Elly would have to travel so far to dump trash. It looks like she is putting her trash in her neighbour’s trash can. Even better is the enormous size of that trash bag. It appears to be even bigger than the can into which Elly plans to put it.

As for the art of the strip, for this time period, this is great Lynn Johnston art. Everything is hand-drawn with no use of a ruler. The background details are marvelous with very few trees being drawn as silhouettes. Plus the objects in the drawing are close to being drawn proportionally correct, even though Michael’s left hand is deformed. Even the listing of the website has been done creatively.

As for the joke of the strip, this is one that Lynn Johnston went to from time-to-time over the years. The child thinks he/she is helping, when actually they are making problems for Elly to which she responds with a horrified look on her face for comic effect. For example, this strip featured young Meredith “helping” Elly with her gardening. Just for fun, I checked AMU reprints looking for the word “helping” to see if there were any strips where a Patterson kid was actually complimented for helping and as you might expect, there were none. However, when the Patterson kids got into their teenaged years, they did start getting those kinds of compliments.