Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Husbands Are Like Little Children

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Steve Nichols’ cookie-giving is the topic of discussion after he’s left. However, what the strip should be called is, “Lynn Johnston trots out all the tired, old husband jokes”:

I make the rules, my husband breaks the rules.
I am raising 2 children -- my son and my husband.
They only write self-help books for raising the little children, not the big children like my husband.

Now if Lynn only threw in a joke about leaving the seat up on the toilet, or how he wants sex all the time, or he doesn’t want to talk about his feelings; we could complete the picture. Sometimes the limited space of the daily strip works to your advantage.

Naturally, Anne doesn’t confront Steve over the matter, and doesn’t take the cookie away from Christopher to enforce her rule. She and Elly just sit back and commiserate over their lowly estate. It is very difficult to sympathize with them.

I think the real question of the strip is: Why is Anne Nichols wearing spats on her feet in Panel 1?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First New-Run Appearance of Steve Nichols

Steve Nichols is Anne Nichol’s husband and up until today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse had not been seen in any new-runs. It seems today that whenever I think about Steve Nichols, I recollect that he was the husband who cheated on his wife in this storyline. He was known for that sort of like Lawrence Poirier is known for being kicked out of his house when he announced he was gay and Farley the dog is known for saving April. However when I look at the whole of the Steve Nichols strips out of For Better or For Worse’s 30 years, the affair strips are a pretty small portion of them. Most of the strips involving Steve occur during the birth of his second son, Richard, and his daughter, Leah. His last appearance involved an irritating leaf blower and it was back in 2003. In other words, we haven’t seen Steve for 7 years.

There was one mention of Steve in a new-run, where it appeared that Lynn Johnston was hinting broadly at a potential early indication of Steve’s cheating. The impression I got was that Lynn was going to use the new-runs to tell an untold story about the cheating. Over a year has passed and that hasn’t happened. With straight reprints looming ahead, perhaps Lynn Johnston decided it was finally time to wrap up this story she had planned to tell. It’s hard to say. Nevertheless, Steve the cheater gets the rap today that he is also the Steve the father who doesn’t consistently discipline.

It’s been awhile since Lynn has drawn Steve and it is nice to see that she hasn’t done like she did with Dr. Ted McCaulay and Mrs. Baird and draw someone that barely looks like they did before. Steve has his widow’s peak and his bushy eyebrows and the nose is kind of close to its original appearance. The only real knock against the drawing is the chin, which featured a nice set of chin-nuts before, and now doesn’t. All things considered, that’s not too bad. One thing I do notice about Steve through the decades is that, like John Patterson, his appearance never really changes.

The fun parts of the strip are (a) the reappearance of little Christopher Nichols as the tarbaby, (b) Elly’s lame reasoning about why John has suddenly taken up training Farley again, since it’s really to support an impending dog-training reprint (c) the strange lack of coffee cups (Can Elly and Anne really talk without coffee?) (d) Elly sitting on something other than a chair or couch/chesterfield and (e) Elly visiting with Anne at Anne's house, which is a much more unusual event than I would have guessed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Come When Dragged

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse continues on with the theme of training Farley, which appears to be occupying the week. Oddly enough, I was able to find on-line advice about training a dog which did not, for maybe the first time in the history of this comic strip, say that what one of the Pattersons was doing with Farley the dog was completely wrong-headed and the exact opposite of what any decent or normal pet owner would do. I was shocked. This is the reference and this is what it says:

Begin with the dog on a long leash. It's absolutely important that you are able to enforce your command should the dog refuse to obey. Don't allow your dog to ignore you. If you call a couple of times and the dog ignores you, use the long leash to make the dog come. It will take many repetitions of "Come Here, go play" before the dog is convinced that its freedom is not going to end just because the owner has called.

Not only that website, but this website and this website also agree on this method. Shocking! How could this possibly happen? Lynn has been so consistent about portraying the Pattersons as always doing the wrong thing. I think the only redeeming aspect of it is that by the use of Farley the dog’s “?” response to John and setting the strip up in a humorous light, Lynn Johnston appears to be mocking this style of training. Consequently, it makes perfect sense to me that the method Lynn would mock, would be a worthy and recommended method.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 13: Aahh! My own bed!

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it.

Early in the morning, I hopped the flight to Narita, Japan. Kate and Lane had spent a day in Tokyo and were wishing they could stay and see more (another adventure for another time)! They met me at the gate and we booked into a hotel in Narita - the name of the airport and also a small, pretty community nearby.

In an extremely unusual moment, Lynn Johnston actually explains the relationship between Narita and Tokyo without my having to research it and explain it for her. Don't worry. It won't last.

With some time to spend before the long flight to Toronto, we wandered around a grand old temple with gardens that will be exquisite in the spring and had lunch in a small local restaurant. We were the only foreigners there and folks watched us with interest as we ordered sushi and other goodies and handled the chopsticks well. We sat on the floor - unlike the other patrons who had secured the more comfortable western tables and chairs. When the meal was over, I said to the one man who was most interested in us, "we're from Canada". "Oh! Canada" he exclaimed... "Vancouver? Olympics?" "Yes, Vancouver Olympics!" we said... and everyone at his table laughed and smiled and waved to us. Seems to me that no matter where your interests lie and no matter how closely you follow the winter games, they are a real icebreaker!!

Lynn could be the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple or the Daijionji Temple. The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple seems closer by description, so that would be my guess. At the restaurant, Lynn makes a point of saying (1) We were the only foreigners and (2) We were the only ones who sat on the floor and (3) The other patrons sat at Western tables and chairs. So does this mean:

1. Lynn is better than the Japanese patrons because she is embracing the Eastern style of eating?
2. Lynn sat on the floor because the Japanese patrons took all the decent sitting spaces?
3. Lynn is just sitting on the floor because she is a little whacky?

"Sushi and other goodies". I wonder what those other goodies were. I am not sure where Lynn is on the timeline. We know from her Chinese New Year (February 14) references, this is probably after that date. The Winter Olympics started February 12 and this is her first reference to them, and the two timeline align nicely.

The flight between Japan and Toronto takes about 14 hours going west and blissfully less when coming back the other way. We were grateful to get standby seats and even more grateful for having taken carry-on luggage. To think that we could manage such a long trip with so little and without buying much; for me, this is a new travel era to be sure!

The Air Canada website tells me that the direct flight from Toronto to Narita takes 12 hours and 45 minutes, while the direct flight back takes 11 hours and 50 minutes. This is about 1 hour less and with Lynn’s 14 hour estimate, I have to presume she is including the connection to North Bay from Toronto; however the comment Lynn makes below about the difficulty in getting to North Bay makes me wonder. Lynn has been obsessed with the carry-on luggage and self-limited purchasing constraint of her trip. In spite of this, she still spent an enormous part of her trip visiting places to shop. I imagine Kate and Lane’s idea is that you spend your time doing things and not buying things, whereas Lynn does not seem to be able to break that shopping habit.

Landing in snowy Toronto was a relief and a wonder. Just a few hours before we'd been in Narita eating sushi with chopsticks! Getting into North Bay took some time as the flights were heavily booked but when we finally landed, that windy, white, blowing runway was a pleasure to see. Coming home makes you wonder if you ever were away at all. It seems like such a miracle that we can go so far so fast.

Lynn does not mention Toronto, however there are no direct flights from Tokyo to North Bay, so the flights to North Bay from Toronto are what she is talking about it being difficult to get.

Thinking back, I'm amazed we did and saw and learned so much. From the bustle of Bangkok to the simplicity of the monks praying in the temples, from the rush of busy highways to the serenity of the towering hillsides and white sandy beaches, we experienced so much and there is still so much more to see. I think the one thing that stands out for me about Thailand is the constant reminder of spirituality and faith. There is always a small shrine with flowers on it, always someone expressing their devotion in prayer, in the wearing of ceremonial clothing, and even in the greetings which bring the hands together in such a genteel salute. In a country that finds itself redefining its society in the face of social change, industry, and the influx of strangers... one is always aware of the comforting presence of God.
Thanks for coming on the journey with us! Lynn

"God"? Oh Lynn. This is the first time you have mentioned God in your whole travelogue. Do you really believe that the Buddhist shrines and prayers in Thailand are a form of God worship? Thinking back, I'm amazed you did and saw and learned so little. Why do have this feeling someone mentioned that today is Palm Sunday, so you felt the need to drop in a God reference?

Come When Called or Not

Just as last week, Lynn Johnston reprinted one of the last few strips from March, 1981 which had not already been reprinted, today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse seems calculated to be a set up to allow Lynn Johnston to reprint this Farley unreprinted training-related strip also from March, 1981. I had presumed Lynn Johnston would not touch it, because it was too heavily tied to the Farley training sequence Lynn Johnston reprinted last year. However, it seems this is no longer the case. The joke in the unreprinted strip has to do with John being able to call Farley, and the joke in this new-run is that John is unable to call Farley. The two are directly related in theme, so I expect we will the unreprinted strip reprinted tomorrow, similar to the new-run and reprint sequence from last week.

This strip taken in combination with yesterday’s training strip creates an unusual pair. While yesterday’s strip seemed to be hell-bent on teaching Farley not to come to the house to try to get in, today’s strip is the exact opposite. It almost suggests the possibility that Elly’s water gun-related training was designed to cause John’s training with Farley to fail so she can stand at the door and mock John’s training. That is certainly in keeping with Elly’s attitude toward John training Farley as she did in this strip.

If this week is the final week of daily new-runs as I suspect, then we are in 1 solid week of strips not so much slamming John, as mocking John. Will Lynn Johnston want to end her new-run sequence with something like this? I think it is possible, and certainly appropriate. John has been slammed and mocked consistently since these new-runs began. It would be good for Lynn Johnston to go out the way she came in.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 12: Bangkok is busy...Narita is sweeta!

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it. First off, the I don't know why Lynn commented on Narita, since the travelogue has almost nothing to do with Narita, except mentioning why Lynn isn't there.

Between Bangkok and Narita, Japan I had a regular ticket. Kate and Lane were travelling standby and decided to head out on the first plane that they could get seats. This left me in Bangkok for an extra day so I went on a cooking tour of the country.

This is very curious. Lynn has a regular ticket and yet in the last travelogue she talked about how she and Kate and Lane couldn’t get to Japan from Phuket because of the Chinese New Year. At that time, they were trying to go to Tokyo. They ended up flying to Bangkok. I thought that was odd, because a good number of the plane flights to Tokyo changed planes in Bangkok, and there are a lot of planes that travel between Bangkok and Tokyo.

Now Lynn says that she has a regular ticket to Narita and not Tokyo. Expedia tells me that there are many flights from Bangkok to Narita, so this should not be a "connection in Tokyo to get to Narita" kind of thing. My guess is their original plan was to go from Phuket to Bangkok, stay a few days in Bangkok and then go to Japan. The reason they could go to Bangkok in spite of Chinese New Year is because they already had regular tickets to do that. The altered plan in Phuket must have been to deviate from their regular ticket plans for Narita and go to Tokyo, Japan 2 days earlier.

Now, Kate and Lane continue on with this plan leaving Lynn behind in Bangkok. It is very telling that Kate and Lane would abandon Lynn at this point. Reading this travelogue carefully, it seems like Lynn prefers to spend her day visiting street vendors and not buying anything, or taking pre-planned tours, while staying at Holiday Inn kind of places (her favorite hotel of the bunch). Katie and Lane seem to like the beach resorts and staying at places that have spa treatments and doing things like snorkeling or attending boxing matches. Lynn had strong complaints about the beaches (ugly people there), snorkeling (too many people in the water and rude people on the boat), and the boxing matches (putting her to sleep). I would like to think that passive Lynn might not express these complaints out loud to Katie and Lane, however Lynn’s departure from the boxing match after a single round makes it seem like Lynn may not be all that quiet about it.

Personally, I would not abandon my 60-year-old mother in Bangkok, no matter how much she complained; but clearly Katie and Lane have a different opinion.

A rough and portly man came to the hotel; he was jovial and seemed to enjoy his job. I was one of 5 - all of us English speaking. We travelled to yet another enormous food market and after doing a tour, were left to explore for 20 minutes on our own. The vendors were very kind about letting us take photos and we snapped away at delicacies such as live frogs (enormous ones!) eels, snakes, mountain rats, dried sting ray, shark fins and other gourmet delights. I would have liked to have tried a lot of stuff, but there was no time. I bought some jellied candies which were tasty and very sweet and we pressed on.

There are number of Bangkok food markets. Possibly this is the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, as described in this website. Although the mountain rat does not sound that appetizing, this website indicates that it tastes better than chicken.

The country here is much like Holland - I'm told. Many canals, once used for travel and commerce, criss cross the plains giving life to such a variety of things: rice, lotus, herbs, cactus, fruits, and so on thrive. In the country, life is much as it is in any farming area, except for the herds of skinny cattle blocking the road from time to time.

This website agrees there are canals in Thailand. I was unable to find any website comparing Holland canals to Thailand canals.

At an historic temple a Chinese water raft was still in use and we hired the elderly boatman to take us down the canal to a Chinese settlement - perhaps 1000 years old. This was one of the first open markets and the Chinese inhabitants are descendents of the original settlers in the area. The boat was a flat barge covered with a bow-shaped canopy. It was cool inside. We had to be very careful getting in as it was very awkwardly balanced - at least for us! The boatman was in his 70's. A proud, handsome man and rail thin, he wore a traditional bamboo hat and was barefoot. As the first one in the boat, I sat looking up at him. He would not meet my gaze and I wondered what he thought of the "big noses" he had to ferry in a boat that belonged to a much more meaningful past.

It looks like Lynn is taking this tour. The lady in the website picture looks a lot like the lady in Lynn’s picture of her cooking. Judging from Lynn’s description, it sounds like the boatman was hired, however the tour description sounds like this was regular part of the paid tour. This is the description:

08.00 AM
- Pick up from Various hotel in Bangkok.
08.30 AM
- Depart Bangkok to Nakron Pathom province. - Enjoy a scenic drive to the beautiful greenbelt of Bangkok. - Passing rice fields, lotus ponds and much more. Then visit fresh much to learn about Thai ingredients for Thai cooking and you will enjoy The Thai local life with "Siamese Smile"
10.00 AM
- Driving to coconut garden to see the processing of palm sugar made from coconut sap
10.30 AM
- Cruising along the Nakron Chaisri river by traditional sculling boat. Then walk pass the old "Thai-Chinese village"
11.45 AM
- Come to the highlight of the tour and enjoy your first hand experience of cooking Thai food at the garden home. - Lunch will be severed.
13.30 PM
- After lunch, visit the wickerwork village to see people making the products from Water hyacinth.
14.00 PM
- Visit orchid farm to see many kinds of grow orchid and the amazing way to grow orchid.
14.30 PM
- Depart from orchid farm to Bangkok.
16.00 PM
- Arrive hotels in Bangkok.

His hands and feet had been altered by time to conform to the workings of the boat. His hands were broad and powerful, his feet bare and bent in an awkward position - perhaps from steering; perhaps he was born that way. I wanted to photograph them but didn't want to be rude. People in Thailand believe strongly in Karma and I wondered about his and mine.

Perhaps Lynn should see this website for more about Karma. As to what Karma has to do with taking photographs, I have no idea. This website talks about Thailand etiquette and says:

Taking Photos: Just as you wouldn't like a stranger walking up to you and snapping your photo, be respectful and ask first before doing the same in Thailand especially with Monks. Note that some rural hill-tribe people believe that a photograph will 'capture' their soul and will object to being photographed.

Perhaps this is what Lynn is talking about with her Karma --- the soul-stealing kind of Karma.

He dropped us off at the old Chinese settlement about a mile down the canal. After the others were safely off the raft, I put my hand on his shoulder, discreetly gave him a large tip, and thanked him for his time. He looked at me then. I didn't know if the was grateful or sad... but I hope he appreciated the gesture.

Back to Thailand etiquette:

The Range of Tips: It is important to remember that the majority of employees in the hospitality and service industries in Thailand earn a very basic wage. Therefore any gratuities received truly do go long way and will serve to recognise and reward enthusiastic service.

I am sure the man appreciated the tip. Of course, I don't know what Lynn considers to be a "large tip".

The Chinese market was a great piece of history. Almost abandoned as a place of commerce, it is still home to many families. We walked down the deserted passageway of stalls. A couple of vendors sold household goods and the barber was busy. Both he and his client smiled and waved pleasantly as we wandered by. It was as if they were part of a strange museum display. Again, I wondered what they thought of US. Tourism is Thailand’s biggest industry, it seems. Strange to have your private life be a part of a "tour". With all the young people leaving to go to school and work in the cities, these places are disappearing fast.

This website says the village on this tour is the Baan Lumphraya. Here are the details:

Baan Lumphya is situated in Nakorn Pathom Province, about one hour (54 km) west of Bangkok, a well known fruit land in Thailand . The surrounding countryside is renowned for its delicious pomelos, fragrant white rice and thriving wine industry.

On the bank of Nakorn Chisri River, Baan Lumphaya has been settled peacefully about 170 years, where the Thai - Chinese traditional lifestyle still remains even today.

170 years is not quite as old as the 1000 years Lynn guessed. It sounds like the place is doing very well from the website description. As for tourism being Thailand’s biggest industry, that’s not really true. This website says:

The economy of Thailand is an emerging economy which is heavily export-dependent, with exports accounting for more than two thirds of gross domestic product (GDP).

It’s nice to know that in spite of seeing all this agriculture around her, Lynn Johnston still thinks the economy of Thailand depends on people like her.

On the walk back down the canal, a lady and her daughter were prepared to receive us in their lovely, private home. We took off our shoes, accepted fresh coconuts with straws in them, and cold cloths for our faces. It was such a relief to be cool! Truly, I have rarely experienced such heat and it made me wonder how they could have fought for so long in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

I think this is the part of the tour described as:

Come to the highlight of the tour and enjoy your first hand experience of cooking Thai food at the garden home.

The reference to the Vietnam War is an odd one. If Thailanders are used to the heat in their own country, then what difference would the heat make to them in fighting? According to this website, the Thai Army saw action in South Vietnam between 1965 and 1971 and also in Laos between 1964 and 1972. This is assuming that Lynn is not talking about the more recent fighting between Thailand and Cambodia back in 2008. I doubt she would be aware of anything that recent.

In an outdoor cooking area, we had an impromptu cooking class. This dear lady taught us how to prepare coconut milk soup, pad Thai, and sweet pickle salad. Then she ushered us into her grand old home to enjoy the meal in her dining room. I think this was one of the highlights of my trip. Around the table we random travelers were now able to greet each other. The American couple are sign language teachers and are here in Thailand for a conference. The two ladies were mom and daughter, from Tasmania, travelling for fun. And then, there was me. This was my first all English-speaking tour and it's so obvious that the inability to communicate with people is a sad barrier. No wonder there are so many misunderstandings between countries. Language, religion, and politics tear us apart... and yet, we really are all the same. Perhaps THIS is what the real future of the internet is: a way to help us understand each other.

Impromptu? Impromptu? Hey, Lynn. When you pay for a cooking tour, it’s not impromptu. Why are you trying to make this seem like this is a part of Thai-Chinese village hospitality, when you have paid good money for it to happen? Finally Lynn talks to her fellow tourists because they all speak English, and this prompts Lynn to make statements how language tears us apart, even though we are all the same…as long as we all speak English. The future of the internet is to help us understand each other. Goodness, Lynn. The power of the internet is that I can do internet searches and figure out what the heck you are doing.

An orchid farm on the way home was interesting. Orchids are beautiful parasites! They can be attached to trees by tying them to the trunk until the roots grow into the bark. There were many varieties in this massive, fabric-covered operation. They are started by placing tiny cuttings into long, clear, square bottles in which a jelly-like growing compound provides a base and nourishment. The bottles are set out on long racks and are tended to until the baby orchids are big enough to roll into tiny slices of coconut husk. These are then placed in trays and put into the greenhouse where fans and sprayers keep everything moist and fresh. The initial growth process takes a few months. The tiny individual plants are monitored and kept sterile. Flowering doesn't occur for about 2 years so, the plants we casually buy in the grocery store have quite a history.

Lynn is right about this. Orchids are a big deal in Thailand and it is a part of the tour. However, by going to the orchid farm, Lynn has not mentioned going to the wickerwork village. I wonder why she left that out of her tour description.

It took hours to get back to the hotel. Bangkok in rush hour is the worst of places to be. If you think it's slow in (pick a North American city), Bangkok gets a prize! It took almost as much time to get back to the hotel as it did to get to the outskirts of the city. Next time, I'll take the train!

No Lynn. Transportation is provided as a part of the tour, but thanks for playing. Judging from the tour information, this is a tour you can pick up as a part of staying at the Holiday Inn Silom, which answers the question from last time about which Holiday Inn in Bangkok Lynn is staying at.

Tomorrow: the first leg home.

If Lynn does put out another one of these tomorrow, I will have to delay my posting about it, since I will be at a Boy Scout camporee this evening and tomorrow. See you after I get back.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

John and the Super Vac Kissing In A Tree

In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we see Part II of the vacuuming story, where Dr. John Patterson investigates the loss of his keys and finding out from Michael they might be in the Super Vac, he decides to…um…well I’m not really sure what he’s doing. The intelligent thing would be to go to the store manager and see they can open the Super Vac to find the keys. After all, we know from this strip, John is not above going into the trash for valuables.

Instead what John is doing appears to another customer as though he and the Super Vac are having a “relationship”. Searching the Comic Strip Catalog for “relationship” this strip is the closest I can find to today’s strip. In the all the other strips, “relationship” meant something between people or pets.

On the other hand, this strip has some similarities to today’s strips. Both strips paint an image of John Patterson who doesn’t mind doing something which appears sexual in nature while out in public. This strip is the famous “John has an orgasm in the massage chair”, while today’s strip appears to be “John has rough sex with the Super Vac”.

While the massage chair strip was a little more innocent, this one is much more obvious in its intent. The other customer specifically mentions “relationship” so even Lynn’s most devoted readers would be hard-pressed not to pick up on the sexual overtones.

On the other hand, if this ends up being one of Lynn Johnston’s last new strips, I think it is only appropriate that she ends the era of new-runs continuing on with one of her major themes of the new-runs: My ex-husband (represented by John Patterson) is a pig. It’s somewhat comforting to know that in the 3 years since her divorce, her hatred remains unabated.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Car Vacuum of Terror

Apparently Michael escaped from the pressure hose unscathed by either injury or even slight wetness from yesterday’s new-run of For Better or For Worse. Today’s new-run moves on to a disaster with the vacuum cleaner as John lets Michael loose with it, but does not take the time to explain “Only vacuum up the dirt” or “Before you vacuum, let me make sure the valuables are out of the way” or anything a sensible person would say before turning a 6-year-old loose with a high-powered vacuum. In this area I speak with some experience, because I discovered when my children were at a very young age, they loved vacuuming because it was so easy to do. Naturally, at that age, they had to be monitored and things had to be removed from their influence to prevent disaster from happening. Any idiot who ever vacuumed knows that, but apparently not Dr. John Patterson. No doubt this is due to his complete and utter lack of experience with vacuuming.

So, the joke is that once again, due to his inexperience and incompetence, John Patterson’s car keys get vacuumed up. Or more importantly, John did not learn his lesson from yesterday’s strip. Lost keys are a regular source of humour with Lynn Johnston as you can tell from looking at this series of strips on this theme. She has done many variations on this joke.

The question that arises next, especially after seeing no consequence whatsoever of the strip’s antics yesterday, is whether or not there will be consequence from the loss of the keys in today’s strip. I get the feeling that we are seeing something like a Warner Brother’s Road Runner cartoon, where the coyote suffers some injury and then moves onto his next scheme with no effect whatsoever from the prior scheme. With this idea in mind, the next disaster we would see would be little Michael using the air to over inflate the tires on the car so it floats in the air or his spilling oil all over the car engine while changing out the oil filter or some other brand of nonsense from his doing things 6-year-olds ought not to do.

The overall point of this strip and yesterday’s strip seems to me to be that John should have stayed in his chair, kept reading his paper, and rejoiced in the fact that he had resisted any temptation to spend time with his son which, as we can see, would simply have been one disaster after another.

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 11: Back to Bangkok

As usual, I will quote the text and then comment on it:

There are just a few days left before we face the long trip home. Travelling with no checked luggage and no set schedule gives you a lot of freedom but it makes for some long waits and last minute decisions. The thought of going to Tokyo for a few days and skipping Bangkok on the way home sounded good but, with Chinese New Year being such a big time for travel, all the flights were full. We booked for Bangkok and arrived around noon. Not having a hotel was a challenge and, to end the search, I suggested we try the Holiday Inn! A travel agent at the airport booked us 2 rooms with the caveat that we also book a tour of the city through her agency - which we did. I asked if this meant a mandatory trip to the tourist trap jewelry and silk stores and she just smiled.

Expedia tells me that there are no direct flights from Phuket (HKT) to Tokyo (NRT). It also tells me that most flights would connect through Hong Kong, Singapore or (you guessed it), Bangkok. That makes it a little suspicious that Lynn can get to Bangkok, but she can't get to Tokyo, eh? Expedia also tells me that this trip has a total flight time of 9 – 10 hours at least with very long layovers. Unless Lynn and company started off to the airport early in the morning, they are looking at an overnight flight to Tokyo. I can see why stopping in Bangkok may be more appealing.

This website describes Chinese New Year in different countries. It makes it look like the celebrations are mainly in the Chinatown districts of each country, even in Bangkok. That is also expressed in the website discussing Chinese New Year in Bangkok:

The best places to enjoy Chinese New Year in Thailand are Bangkok's chinatown Yawarat district and Nakhorn Sawan. Bangkok's Yawarat district was founded in year 1783.

At last, Lynn Johnston finally explains her much earlier comment about no checked luggage she made in a few of her earlier travelogue entries. It appears that that big deal is less the “no checked luggage” and more the “no set schedule”. Somehow Lane and Katie managed to talk Lynn into an open-ended vacation, which pretty much tells me that Lynn is not worried about meeting any upcoming comic strip deadlines. In other words, before Lynn took this trip, she had already set the strip up to go to straight reprints. We are in the end times.

As for the Holiday Inn, there are 3 in Bangkok. They are all about the same distance to the city center, so I have no idea which one Lynn is in:

1. SILOM BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.32 MI / 3.73 KM
2. HOLIDAY INN BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.56 MI / 4.12 KM
3. BANGKOK Distance from city center: 2.52 MI / 4.06 KM

Naturally you can call Hotel Reservations for Holiday Inn directly and not have to sign up for any tours; but Lynn and company don't seem to know that. Judging from Lynn’s comments, it sounds like she was hard-pressed to get Katie and Lane to agree to go to the Holiday Inn. From the prior travelogue entries, it looks like they have been favoring the hotel and spa kinds of places.

Surprisingly, the Holiday Inn has been one of the nicest and most modern hotels we've seen and of the service is... well... overwhelming. There are people to open the doors, people to press the elevator buttons, people to show you where the restaurant is, and people just... well, bowing and pressing their hands together in a gracious sign of welcome.

Ah, the joys of American hotel chains in other countries.

Our tour of the city began from our hotel. A sweet young man accompanied us and a driver in a spotless, air conditioned car to the center of the city where the old original Bangkok was still evident - tucked into the maze of skyscrapers and modern concrete architecture. Here the signs were in Thai and Chinese and Arabic. The facades of the buildings were ornate. Tiny crowded shops were bustling with activity as people did a ritual cleaning of their homes and offices, putting out offerings, and socializing with neighbors in a real holiday atmosphere.

"Ritual cleaning of their homes"? I can't find any reference to Bangkok home-cleaning rituals.

This website actually discusses a study done of the different signs in Bangkok. It says:

Huebner (2006) explored the linguistic landscape of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The official language policy of the country has Thai as the national state language while English is the language typically used for wider communication. To encourage the use of Thai, the government provides a tax incentive for including that language on commercial signs in Bangkok. However, not all businesses take advantage of this, and when they do, they often put Thai in small print in a corner of the sign, which shows the popularity and importance of English. Less than half of all signs (45 percent) contain only one script. The majority of those signs (57 percent) is written in the Thai script, with 38 percent in Roman script and 5 percent in other scripts, such Japanese (8), Arabic (3) and Chinese (1). A majority of the signs (55 percent) contains multiple scripts, either in Thai and Roman script together or in the three scripts Thai, Roman and Chinese. Government signs in Bangkok are quite similar all over the city, but privately posted signs display considerable variation across neighbourhoods. In most of the fifteen neighbourhoods that were studied the signs are either monolingual Thai, or bilingual Thai-English signs; however Thai-Chinese multilingual signs dominate in two neighbourhoods and languages other than Thai are dominant in four other neighbourhoods.

The number of signs spotted in 2006 with Arabic are not very many, however Lynn takes the English on the signs for granted and shows more interest in the Arabic (mysterious women in black, the women in chadors she mentions below) since she has been in Thailand. My guess is her next trip will be to a Muslim country.

Flower sellers had long wreaths of orchids and yellow chrysanthemums stacked in piles and hanging from posts - all part of the ritual. The small shrines and the big ones alike were spotless and decked with wreaths, candles, food, and drink. Overhead, rows of orange lanterns hung like necklaces above the streets, colored lights flickered along the shop walls and everywhere there was the feeling of joy and excitement. This is the Thailand I was looking for - not the cosmopolitan streets of downtown lined with the English signs; MacDonald’s, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks pressed into glass malls with Gucci and Prada and Guess.

Based on this website, I am not sure these are yellow chrysanthemums. The website says the marigolds are the flower of choice for Bangkok shrines. Looking at this website, it appears Lynn’s description of the shopping malls is accurate. However, I find it very amusing that the same woman who detested Lynn Lake for its lack of shopping, is complaining about what appears to be a paradise for shoppers.

This website follows the Mad Traveler who was in Bangkok at the same time as Lynn for Chinese New Year and his pictures are a lot better than hers. The best part of all this is that Lynn Johnston, who has been complaining nonstop about not finding the Thailand she was looking for, while comparing it unfavorably to Beijing, China, now announces she has found it on a day where the Thailanders are celebrating a Chinese holiday and have Chinese decorations up like the orange lanterns. I can imagine Lynn in the San Francisco Chinatown on Chinese New Year saying the same thing, “At last, the San Francisco I was looking for.”

We toured two beautiful shrines which we entered barefoot. The artwork in these places always takes my breath away. In the courtyards there are places to buy lotus and incense and they teach you how to pray - just for your own peace, not to any one God in particular. People from all denominations and backgrounds shared moments of personal thought as others took photos, herded kids, and just marveled at the rich, awe inspiring buildings. Gold tipped rooftops, ornate blue, red, and yellow mirrored tiles, paintings, murals of inlayed pearl and precious stones all attest to the intensity of devotion to these sacred places.

I have been unable to find the shrine featured in the picture. This website has pictures of the most famous Bangkok shrines and it does not appear to be any one of those. However, to get an idea of just how many shrines there are in Bangkok, take a look at this video.

At the drink stand was a fortune teller and for about $20.00 Canadian, he told me I was a good person, my lucky number is 5, and I’m going to live to be 87. Lots of travelling years ahead!

According to this website, fortune-telling is a big business in Bangkok. The man in this picture appears to be doing a palm reading and he has an astrological chart by his left arm. I wonder who is in the signed celebrity picture under Lynn’s right arm? Bobby Curtola? And look, there’s Lane! Can this be the first picture we have seen with Lane in it?

The website says:

High-end fortune tellers command prices as high as 10,000 baht per hour, though on the street it’s possible to book a fortune telling session for as little as 40 baht.

According to this CAD to Baht converter, Lynn paid about $632 baht, so her session was a little pricey for a drink stand fortune teller.

Then we were lambs to the slaughter. Disguised as "traditional handicrafts", jewelry is the main reason for taking you anywhere and, like many tropical ports, seems to support a huge population. We expected the ruse, made our way through the mazes of glass cabinetry full of very expensive trinkets, and were finally allowed to escape to our hotel. The next city tour I take will be with a private guide. But, even THEY get a cut from the gem shops!!

In this area, Lynn is absolutely right and kudos to her for that. This website describes the gem market in Bangkok and strongly recommends not buying a gem in Bangkok for a number of very good reasons. Here's the one that applies to Lynn:

Guides will take you to the Government gem and jewelry shops that are just insanely expensive, because you will be paying government set prices, and also be paying the cut that the guide, and the taxi driver receives. They each get their cut if you are foolish enough to pay the outlandish Government gems store prices. I would however like to make one thing clear. The gem that you get at the Government store will stand the best chance of being real. When you get home and realize how much you paid over the world market price you may regret your decision unless you have money to burn, but at least we can say with reasonable confidence that your purchase will likely be a real gem, and not a fake, so that is something to consider if you absolutely have to make a gem purchase in Thailand.

This evening, we got a cab to the night market and the one here is something to see! It is easily a square mile of shops featuring everything from fake name-brand handbags to the finest of silk dresses. Tattoo artists work away next to women in chadors selling beaded shawls and handmade carpets. Women in saris float by men in white robes and ladyboys in tight fitting skirts and impossibly high heels work side by side in narrow alleyways. A honeycomb of tiny cubicles full of colorful wares take your attention away from the uneven flooring so you have to be in full shopping stamina to keep from falling over. We saw several foreign women with taped ankles and on crutches - it's easy to see why. I am still together, in one piece, and I thank my luck and my bifocals for keeping me this way. The fact that we can't carry anything has kept us from shopping but we walked 'til we dropped anyway.

Lynn still has not learned about shipping back things she buys, but that's OK. I think Lynn is talking about the Patpong Night Market as described in this website. However it could also be the Suan Lum Night Bazaar as described in this website. Both are in Bangkok, but Lynn does not give me enough detail to figure it out. As for the uneven ground, an internet search for “bangkok night market uneven flooring” found several entries of tourism blogs talking about the difficulties in walking there and various and sundry walking-related injuries.

As for the kathoey or ladyboys, it appears Lynn has learned the English language phrase for them, which she didn’t know the last time she talked about them in travelogue entry #2. Surprisingly the term “ladyboys” is not considered to be offensive in Bangkok, but is the popular English term. They even have a touring show with the name Lady Boys of Bangkok.

Well, today is a new day. We have taken the train to a less swanky part of town to seek cheap internet. My time is just about up and there's more stuff to see and do. Until the next installment, the intrepid explorer signs off, Sa wa dee ka! LJ

I don’t why she continues to write the endings of these things like she is in Thailand seeking the internet connection which will allow her to write it and that she is not already back in Canada and this trip didn’t occur in February. The Chinese New Year references are the giveaway, not to mention her daily entries which are posted every other day.

Last time around she wrote:

We are off to continue the adventure, so I'll sign off for now. Sa-was dee, ka!

There is one less “s” than last time, but Lynn is still trying to say, “Hello” as said by a female. Maybe before she is done someone will teach her to say "goodbye" in Thai.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Car Wash of Terror

With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, we learn that Dr. John Patterson is unable to read this safety sign:

Do NOT allow children to operate the pressure washer at any time.

Don't look for it in the comic strip, just whenever you go to a coin operated car wash. Of course I will have to grant that Dr. John Patterson wasn’t aware that the local car wash had such water pressure it was capable of generating an indoor tornado.

Apparently Michael did not find this moment to be so traumatizing as to keep him from going to the Doogie Dewitt’s Dewitt Yourself Car Wash, which is the only other time I can see any Patterson using pressure wash. Edgar did better in that strip than Farley does in the car wash in this strip.

Most of the time Mike uses the drive through car wash as in this strip. The one time we see anyone washing the car by hand it is in this strip and it is Elizabeth.

The best car wash story is probably the one where Mike takes Rhetta Blum to the car wash, only he doesn’t know how to close the windows. It is in this strip, this strip, this strip, this strip, this strip and this strip.

All those car wash strips, and yet I can honestly say that today's car wash strip is the worst of the bunch.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Justified Irritation

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse hits upon a common theme in the early strips -- Michael bugging one of his parents, while they are trying to do something else. Mind you, I looked for the phrase “justified irritation” and “missed opportunity” on the Comic Strip Catalog and did not find anything which matched the situation of today’s strip. "Justified irritation" never appears. In the last panel of today’s strip, it looks like John has rolled up the newspaper in preparation for pummeling young Michael Patterson and refers to it as a missed opportunity, possibly because he could have pummeled Mike with the paper in any of the prior panels.

I did find a number of strips where Michael nags Elly in this strip, this strip, this strip, this strip and this strip. In none of them does Elly feel remorse for a missed opportunity.

There are also a few where Mike nags John as in this strip and this strip. In none of them does John feel remorse for a missed opportunity. This is one where Elly feels guilt. A rare event.

Here are a few strips where John actually tries to spend time with Michael and fails. This one is one of the rare strips where Michael interrupts John to ask him to play with him, and John actually does it. I could not find a similar strip with Elly Patterson playing with Michael after being nagged.

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 10: Snorkelling - The sport that sounds like its name

Lynn never does tell us how noises from snorkelling sound like its name. I have been snorkelling before I and can honestly say that I did not associate the two.

As usual, I will quote the material and then comment on it.

Early this morning, we climbed into a van with 2 Russian couples and set off for the Similan Islands. The trip took over an hour and the driver was late. To the beat of wailing Thai pop stars, we shot through the streets sure that the driver had slept in and was nursing a serious hangover. There seem to be no rules when it comes to getting to your destination. A solid line means there is likely enough space for 3 or 4 cars as long as there's no drop or stone wall along the shoulders. Again, we passed an accident just after it had taken place; on the pavement a young girl lay in shock next to her motor scooter... her leg torn open from knee to ankle. As before, the injured was quickly surrounded by helpful bystanders, but there's little in the way of medical insurance here and it's not uncommon for injured motorists to be left to their fate as a helpful Samaritan can be suddenly responsible for hospital fees!

Where does Lynn Johnston get this information? According to this website the emergency telephone number in Thailand for Medical is 1669. Here is a company that does Thailand medical insurance in Phuket and another here and another here and…well you get the idea.

As for the trip to the Similan Islands, this website says:

Thap Lamu Pier, in the Thai Muang district of Phang Nga province, is the nearest launching point to the Similans, with boat trips taking about 3 hours.

This website says from Phang-Nga city to nearby provinces - Phuket 87 kms

We had a fast breakfast of fruit, toast, and instant coffee at the tour shack and were fitted for flippers - Kate and Lane brought their own gear. On the beach before boarding the speedboat to the islands, they took all of our shoes. The rest of the excursion was a feet of survival. Two hours of banging against the waves, dangerously racing other speedboats, and vying for space on the sticky leather seats, we were finally at the dive spot. We were all told to exit the boat where it was anchored just meters from a very different kind of land formation. The Similans are a group of uninhabited islands about an hour from shore and, except for the tropical foliage, look much like the worn and rounded granite islands in the Canadian Shield.

“Kate and Lane brought their own gear” – hardcore snorkelers.

“they took all of our shoes. The rest of the excursion was a feet of survival”. Is this some kind of foot joke?

Two hours is quite a bit shorter than the 3 hours projected above. This website says the trip takes 70 minutes via speed boat.

With the different geology comes a different sea bed. This area was all coral reef. The water was so clear it was hard to judge the depth we were swimming in. I have never been to a coral reef before and the shapes of the organisms below the surface were exquisite. There was a dark coral with a neon blue tip - something I wanted to see better but it was a surprisingly long way down and it took all my energy to get there. Many different species of fish and a plethora of gasping, gurgling, life-jacketed tourists bobbing about made this a veritable parade. I wondered how many endangered species were hoping we’d go away.

“The water was so clear it was hard to judge the depth we were swimming in.” Is she saying that when the water is murky, you can easily judge the depth?

“something I wanted to see better but it was a surprisingly long way down and it took all my energy to get there.” I think Lynn may have confused snorkeling with diving.

As for endangered species, this website mentions the main endangered species under the water near the Similan Islands are the sea turtles. However, I would not limit endangered species as the only creatures hoping Lynn would go away. I am sure there were other species as well.

We were then taken to an island park where we could rest and get a drink. There was little shade, so we all got pretty friendly as we crowded between the rocks and under the few overhanging trees. The sand is finely crushed coral and the consistency white flour. The good thing about this beach was that there were facilities and the place was clean. Other public islands were covered in litter and unexpected latrines kept one from exploring the trails. A sad thing about tourism is that many tourists don't care enough to leave just their footprints.

The island park is probably Similan National Park, which may also explain the niceness of the facilities.

“unexpected latrines” What does that mean? “I was going to explore this trail but a latrine jumped out at me and I wasn’t expecting it? Until they get the wild latrines under control, those trails aren’t safe.”

As for sand, this website has a slightly different take on its origin:

Much of the fine white sand found in coral reef settings is ground-up coral (limestone) that has passed through the digestion system of the parrot fish.

The trip back was a noisy, pounding grunt and a few travelers were frustratingly pushy about taking the best seats. When you can't speak to each other, courtesy seems to disappear. The passengers were German, Russian, Italian, and English and we all kept to ourselves - except for passing the plates of food at lunch, there was little eye contact!

German, Russian and Italian I can understand, but I thought Lynn spoke English. However, I will admit that these travelogues do raise a question about her English abilities. As for the food, it appears that food is provided by the tour which brings the tourists out to the island. There are no restaurants listed for Similan Island.

Back at the shack, we jostled to use the latrines. Fortunately, the driver was in no hurry to get back to Karon Beach where we are now staying. He was so dangerously close to falling asleep that Kate was prepared to holler at him the whole way home - I was too tired to notice.The best thing about these long drives is the chance to see the countryside….. You just don't want to be mashed into it!!! More to come. LJ

“Karon Beach where we are now staying”. Maybe Lynn forgot she put this in her last travelogue. The last travelogue had a very different feel to it than this one, making me suspect that it might have been written after this one was.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse goes back in time to March 17, 1981, which is one of the few March, 1981 strips not reprinted. Supposedly tomorrow is going to be a new-run exploring more of the Mike and John relationship, which means that we will probably have another week of new-runs. As I have pointed out before, the next straight set of unreprinted material would have been originally published on April 6, 1981 so it would be wise for Lynn Johnston to produce 2 weeks of new-runs so she can synchronize April 5, 2010 with those strips before going to straight reprints. It may be she plans to do that.

This past Saturday, Lynn published her latest entry of her travelogue to Thailand, where she revealed that her trip actually took place during Chinese New Year, which was February 14. However, in Phuket, Thailand, they celebrated it from February 19-21. In all likelihood, these were the concluding days of her trip. In order to take a 2 week vacation, this would be mean that prior to her vacation she would have to have submitted daily strips for the next 6 weeks following that going to the last week of March. The next week would start on Monday, April 5. That lines up so neatly, it can’t be coincidence. My guess is that we are going to get 2 more weeks of new-runs and April 5 will be the start date for straight reprints. Of course, there is always the possibility that Lynn Johnston will change her mind about going to straight reprints. It would not be the first time she has changed her mind about things like that.

As for the Howard Bunt Blog, this very entry is entry #1500. Can you believe it? I’ve been doing this since August, 2005. Clearly if there is ever a hearing to determine my sanity, I will have to hope they don’t find this blog.

As for the strip today, it is a strange one. Lawrence Poirier broke his leg on January 27 and got his cast off on March 21. In the original publication, it was February 10 to March 17 – 2 weeks longer in the cast. The humour of the strip appears to be that Lawrence Poirier with his cast off, has to restrain himself from kicking other people until his leg completely heals. I do not get this joke. My first thought was that Lawrence took advantage of his cast to kick people and now he doesn’t get to do that with his cast off. Only that’s not what the strip says. “He just won’t be able to kick anyone for a while.” Lawrence can’t kick people? Since when is Lawrence a kicker?

Other persons in the strip are kickers, not Lawrence. In this strip, Michael kicks newly born Elizabeth. Here, Elly kicks Phil for wanting to drink something alcoholic. It’s usually the dogs who get kicked. Here Elizabeth kicks Eddy. Here Elly kicks Farley.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Going Back in Time

Today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse is the first Sunday strip to move chronologically backward in the original publishing schedule for Sunday strips since this strip published on July 26, 2009, which was originally published on March 16, 1980. Today’s strip was originally published June 8, 1980. Everything else between the two strips was either a new-run or originally published in 1981.

The reason why this is important is because Lynn Johnston announced the moment of going to straight reprints would be in Early Spring, 2010. For Better or For Worse’s great claim to fame was that the characters in the comic strip aged in real time. Their birthdays occurred at the same time each year. The school for the kids started and stopped at the same time real schools start and stop. For these reasons, it is crucial that straight reprints line up with the reprint’s original publication dates. An April strip must be reprinted in April, for example.

During the last year and a half, Lynn Johnston has been pulling strips to reprint from 1979-1981 without respect to the chronological order of things. It appears the motivation was for these things:

1. Introduce the adoption of Farley the dog as early as possible, so that the cartoon dog could be used to promote Lynn’s children’s book about Farley.
2. Reprint only those strips which painted the avatars for Lynn’s ex-husband and son in the worst possible light for reasons of person revenge against them due to Lynn’s divorce.
3. Fill in the gaps for storylines Lynn felt were not properly covered in their original publication.

As a result from pulling these strips willy-nilly, Lynn ended up reprinting strips from 1981 as late into the year as June. This means that in order to line up the June Sunday strips from 1981 with 2010, Lynn must either reprint strips from years before 1981 or write brand-new strips. Spring, 2010 has happened, and sure enough, we see a Sunday strip reprinted from 1980. If this trend continues, we could see Sunday strips from 1980 published from now until June, when she can go back to reprinting Sunday strips from 1981. This move back to 1980 could be the sign that Lynn Johnston is officially doing straight reprints with the Sunday strips.

As for the theme of today’s strip, it is an interesting one. Elly is trying to change her hairstyle herself. This is a rare event. Elly normally does not change her hairstyle any more than just adding some curls as in this strip. Normally she goes to a stylist, but often she doesn’t like the result as in this strip and this strip and this strip. This strip is the closest one I can find to today’s strip, although Elly does not try as many different styles as in today’s.

Looking through the old strips about hair, I think I have found a new favourite. Elly is rarely satisfied with her hair, and rightly so, but this strip is the exception.

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 8: Another Day, Another Beach

Actually Part 9, but who's counting? As usual I will quote the text of interest and make comments on it.

We’re retracing our steps, now. We've left the bustle of Ao Nang and are now at a swanky spot just across from Karon Beach on Phuket Island. (Or Koh Phuket - pronounced "Goh Phuket". Whot fun!) There were few places able to accommodate 3 people for 4 nights at the same place, this being Chinese New Year and all, so we're ruffing it at a place where the pool goes right up to your room - no nude bathing allowed, which is a good thing. The clientele is Russian for the most part and the shapes are North American... not good viewing before breakfast.

Chinese New Year. That was February 14?!! However, this website says that it was celebrated in Phuket on February 19-21. This trip was back in February? Then why did Lynn go through all the elaborate description of how she was having to type up her travelogues on the one working computer terminal in her hotel, so we would think she was writing these while she was in Thailand? According to this website, Chinese New Year in Phuket is a big deal. You can look at it and see all the things Lynn could have done, but didn’t do.

As for Koh Phuket being pronounced Goh Phuket, that’s not correct. This website has the pronunciation for Phuket as “poo – keht” and this website has the pronunciation for Koh as “gaw”. “Whot fun” to make risque jokes on the mispronunciation of foreign languages. Can you imagine the fun Lynn had all those years being married to Rod Johnson, I mean Rod Johnston?

Lynn doesn’t say where she is, but based on the picture and her description, my guess is that she is at the Karon Sea Sands Resort. However, the Thai food cooking class references coming up may refute that. You can look at this map for Karon Beach and find where Lynn is.

Before leaving Ao Nang, we went to a Thai boxing match at the local arena. A free van takes you there but first you ride it up and down the street picking up patrons as the loud speaker blares out messages about the matches, the stars, and the time of entry. The arena was spacious and hot. Lane got us executive seats on long leather couches next to the ring. The executive seats were on 3 sides of the ring, the 4th left for a throng of family, fans, and wagerers. A loud bell and 2 fighters emerged to a crash of cymbals, drums, and the tuneless wailing of what we called a "snake charmers flute". The fighters bob and gesture, screw up their faces, and almost dance as they work to psyche out the rival. Then the fight begins. It's over fast as the kicking is hard and the punches are deadly. The winner is declared to the shouts and waving of the rabble on the side. Despite the din, I found it hard to stay awake. Kate too was OK to pass up the last 2 rounds, so we left Lane to enjoy the rest of the matches on his own. Been there done that! HOO, was it noisy!

This website has a better description of kick-boxing (as we call it) or Muay Thai as the Thailanders call it. Considering Chinese New Year was celebrated in Phuket from Friday, February 19 to Sunday, February 21; and these boxing matches are held on Fridays, this must be February 19 when this occurred. The part I don’t understand is how in the world Lynn Johnston could find it hard to stay awake. Why do I have this feeling the situation was more like, “Lane. Mom drank too much and she’s about to pass out. I’ll take her back to the hotel and you can stay and watch this. It’s too violent and too loud for me.”?

An insight into one of the World's most excitng martial arts and the Thai national sport. Ao Nang Boxing stadium presents the ancient art of Muay Thai.

Kick-boxing or Muay Thai is the fighting system or martial art practiced in Thailand as well as several other South East Asian countries. Muay Thai literally means "Thai Boxing" and evolved from its ancestor "Muay Boran" or "Ancient Boxing". Known also as The Art of the Eight Limbs, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and has differed slightly from Muay Boran since King Rama VII sanctioned a code and set of rules that was successfully put into practice due to the regular occurrence of death during bouts. Since then, the sport has introduced the wearing of padded boxing gloves and a western style boxing ring.

Ao Nang Boxing Stadium stages Muay Thai contests every Friday from around 8 pm onwards, attended by hundreds of tourists and local Thais. Groups of Thai men with their cries and shouts elevate the atmosphere to what at times can only be described as frenzied. Be warned; these are no exhibition flights - it's the real deal! The only concession to tourism is the cost. Prices start at 600 Baht and go up to 1,200 Baht for a comfy ringside sofa.

Meanwhile back in Phuket:

This morning, Kate has gone to a Thai cooking class and we are keeping cool in one of the many internet shops. It's morning and by 8:30 it's already steamy hot.
The Thai custom of leaving shoes outside is getting to be familiar, although many places are too dirty for us to comply. Massage places have rows of shoes outside as do many private shops and even the hotel rooms have shoes outside the doors. People are easy going and accept the fact that the foreigners have their own customs. Everything seems to be tolerated. Girls in modest dress and hijabs walk past tourists with bare bulges flapping in the wind. Speedos leave little to the imagination. Boys who for all the world are girls (breast implants and shapely curves) give tourist info. to Harley riders in chains bearing tattoos of skulls and other gruesome imagery.

Apparently Thai cooking classes are all over Phuket Island. According to this website, at Karon Beach, the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort Hotel Phuket and Karon Villa Phuket both offer Thai cooking classes. As for Thai customs, this website has this to say about dress:

Do dress modestly. Thais now understand that Americans may show up in shorts and tank tops in public, but would never do so themselves. Wearing long pants, and clean, neat clothes, will gain you an extra measure of respect.

As for shoes, this website has this to say about taking them off. Considering the shoe-shedding obsessions of the Pattersons, you wouldn’t think this would be any problem for Lynn Johnston.

Do remove your shoes when entering a home or temple, or any place where you see other shoes left at the entrance.

Now Lynn will talk about the hillsides. It doesn't say she is actually going into the hillsides to see this stuff. It makes me wonder if Lynn has done a little research herself to fill out this travelogue. Unlike her prior travelogue entries, the next several part of this travelogue just seem to be random things Lynn is saying about the area with no particular connection to what she is doing there.

The hillsides here are fewer and less imposing and, between the cliffs, the countryside levels into wide, flat farmland. Rubber trees are planted in great rows. Small coconut cups fastened to the sides collect the sticky, white, smelly sap which when dry is like an elastic band. There are pineapple plantations, bananas of course, and some fruits and veggies we have never even heard of. Dragon fruit, for example is like a huge red turnip with curly red leaves coming out of it. The fruit inside is white, full of tiny black seeds and tastes to me like a mix of potato and watermelon! Breadfruit, mango, papaya, and the strangest citrus fruits are all so tempting. This is what makes the markets such a joy to explore. Interestingly, you can give a banana as an offering at the temple, but it has to be unpeeled. A peeled one is… an insult.

Also a peeled one is unsanitary. Notice once again Lynn refers to the food as tempting, but does not actually mention tasting any aside from the dragon fruit. With respect to rubber trees, this website has this information. Lynn description appears to be basically correct.

The first rubber tree on the island appeared in 1903 and steadily expanded to the point where rubber plantations covered more than a third of the land area of Phuket Island.

A cut is made through the bark of the tree; this cut extends one-third to one-half of the circumference of the trunk and is made in the shape of a chevron. The latex exudes from the cut and is collected in a small cup, the amount of latex obtained on each tapping is about 30 ml (about 1 fl oz).

The dragon fruit is the Pitaya which, according to this website, like the rubber tree is not native to Phuket.

And now on to music:

The music here sounds very western. We hear little of the traditional stuff. They have a karaoke style of entertainment here where a single singer wails out the Thai equivalent of "Thriller" to the recorded din of synthesized accompaniment. Most restaurants play the North American hit parade. After awhile, you get pretty tired of Celine and Shania.

Celine Dion has not had a hit in Canada since "I Drove All Night" in 2003. Shania Twain has not had a hit in Canada since "I Ain't No Quitter" in 2005. Why do I have the feeling that Lynn Johnston has no idea what either of these ladies sound like? Even so, if these two represent the hit parade, then it is taking a little while to get to Phuket Island. According to the Phuket Gazette, they don’t like this karoake music in Phuket any more than Lynn Johnston does.

I asked about varmints and the most dangerous thing in the area is the cobra. We were told that cobras don't like bug spray, so it's worn when tramping through the woods with a dual purpose. I see a marketing opportunity for "OFF" here. Note: elephants really do have flat feet and don’t leave much of a footprint. I looked… not even the toes make much of an impression… everything just gets pretty flat. Elephants used to play a serious role in both logging and agriculture, but machinery and worldwide pressure have changed their lot. Now they are paraded for tourists and kept as pets. They appear in much of the local artwork and are considered very good luck.

Cobras in Phuket Island. I can just see OFF protecting me from that bad boy. Right.

This website agrees elephants were used for logging, but not on Phuket. According to this website, the elephants were brought to Phuket for the tourists.

Not many years ago, there was considerable debate about elephants in Phuket. Elephants are not native to Phuket – they come from the cooler northern part of the country – but were brought here to work in the tourist industry. As Thailand’s logging industry declined, out-of-work elephants and their mahouts headed for Phuket.

This website disagrees and says that at one time elephants were native to Phuket, so who knows?

In former times wild elephants roamed Phuket Island but as tin mining and rubber plantations changed the natural environment elephants slowly disappeared.

And now on to Good Luck:

Good luck is a big thing here and many things are done to generate it. The first sale in the morning must be followed by a prayer and then the money given to the vendor is wiped across the merchandise. This encourages further good luck. If you can score the first sale, you might get a bargain or you might be one of many “first sales” which makes for a good pitch at the doorway.

I can’t find anything to confirm or deny this statement. However, the association of “first sale” with “bargain” not only would attract Lynn Johnston’s interest, but also gives me the feeling Lynn may have been scammed.

In the big temple, boys line up to take part in a religious ceremony. They are required to enter the monastery as rite of passage. Some stay 10 days, some several months, and some for a lifetime. One of our guides told us he enjoyed his life in the monastery; he learned from it to be humble, caring, and grateful. Maybe this should be required in other countries.

According to this website, the rite of passage is typically 3 months. As for Lynn’s remark about being “required in other countries”, maybe Lynn should refamiliarize herself with the churches in Canada before she makes such remarks.

Mainland Thai culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. However, unlike the Buddhist countries of East Asia, Thailand's Buddhists follow the Therevada school, which is arguably closer to its Indian roots and places a heavier emphasis on monasticism. Thai temples known as wats, resplendent with gold and easily identifiable thanks to their ornate, multicolored, pointy roofs are ubiquitous and becoming an orange-robed monk for a short period, typically the three-month rainy season, is a common rite of passage for young Thai boys and men.

And now onto the Big Buddha:

On the crest of the highest hill in the town of Phuket, a giant Buddha is being built - it can be seen for miles. The “Big Buddha” signs lead you up a winding road to a large newly constructed landing and the marble base of this huge monument. Because indentured servitude can’t supply free labor, the costs escalated and now there’s an effort to complete the project with the help of grants, donations, and volunteers. We bought marble tiles and autographed them, to be placed alongside thousands of others which will soon become part of the towering form. Someday we’ll come back to see it finished, knowing we have played a minute role in its completion.

The Thailanders call it Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha. This website has more information about the marble tiles:

This touching message is typical of those written on the thousands of bricks and white marble slabs used to make up the image. On a good day more than 1,000 people visit the site, many of whom donate money for building materials and write messages on the purchased items for good luck and in memory of passed-away loved ones.

Lynn does not end this one with a promise to write more, so this could be the last Travelogue entry for Thailand.

Friday, March 19, 2010


There are a few contradictions in the dialogue of the today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse.

Anne: So, is your brother seeing someone, El?
Elly: I don’t know, Anne. I haven’t really asked him.
Elly: But he told me the girl Connie saw in his apartment plays the cello. He said they were working on some music – and they were just friends.
Contradiction: Elly hasn’t asked Phil if he is seeing someone, BUT she did ask about his relationship with the “’Allo?” girl to get that elaborate explanation.

Anne: Does that mean she still has a chance?
Elly: Maybe.
Contradiction: There’s a pretty girl in Phil’s house when he is not there and the reason Phil is associated with her is because they are working on some music. And yet, when Phil is not there, how can they be working on some music? We know from the strips coming up that Connie and Phil are not back together until Phil moves to Milborough.

Elly: Maybe. I don’t like to pry, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.
Contradiction: Phil lives in Montreal. Elly lives in Milborough. Considering that, there is no difference between prying and keeping your eyes and ears open. This is assuming that Elly doesn't have some kind of Superman-like abilities, where she can see and hear over long distances.

Elly: When you keep your eyes and ears open…it’s hard to keep your mouth closed.
Contradiction: Actually, if you are actively trying to see and hear things, it’s very easy to keep your mouth closed. It’s the talkers who don’t see and hear things.

So it turns out Phil didn’t really break Connie’s heart by leading her on. Connie broke her own heart by jumping to the wrong conclusion about the “’Allo?” girl. The story is back on track for when Phil moves to Milborough the next year and starts courting Connie. What was the purpose of this story again? To show Connie was a nitwit?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Wrong Address, So Then What?

With today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston has Elly confirm that the wrong address theory from the original strip, where Phil lived on 271 Rue des Fèves and in the “’Allo?” girl strip that address is 114 Rue des Fèves, is no longer valid. This means that Lynn remembered Rue des Fèves was the street, but arbitrarily changed the address number.

The question of what happened to Phil’s pipe has been answered. The question of whether or not that was Phil’s apartment has been answered. The question of whether or not Phil was there in the apartment at the time Connie visited has been answered. The question of how Connie spent her week in Montreal since she wasn’t spending it with Phil has been answered. I know it seems a little whacko for a woman to spend a week weeping in her car, but this is Connie Poirier and all things are possible.

We still don’t know who the “’Allo?” girl is and what is her relationship to Phil. What we can tell about her from this strip is:

a. She seems to be completely unfazed by a strange woman with a shocked look on her face showing up on the doorstep carrying Phil’s pipe. If she were the jealous girlfriend type, you would think such a situation would raise her curiosity and would lead her to ask the question, “How did you get Phil’s pipe?” Instead she acts completely unthreatened by Connie and invites her to come in.

b. She is aware of Phil’s schedule, which implies a certain degree of intimacy, although a roommate or a personal secretary might know the same thing.

c. Whatever she does for a living, she appears to be home during the day.

Clearly from Connie’s weeping scene, she thinks Phil is romantically involved with the “’Allo?” girl. There is no longer any question as to whether or not Connie thought she was the housekeeper or a roommate. Consequently, there is no longer any question as to why Connie went to the Jazzy Club to see Phil. She is there to throw herself at Phil in spite of the fact she thinks Phil has a girlfriend living with him.

To summarize, Connie Poirier will leave Lawrence with the Pattersons and ignore his cry for his mother after he breaks his leg. She will throw herself at Phil in an attempt to break up his presumed relationship with “’Allo?” girl. After this is unsuccessful, she will not go home to her son, but instead gets her hair done and buys a lot of nice clothes.

Congratulations Lynn. You have actually made Connie Poirier even more reprehensible than she was before. I knew you could do it.

Lynn's Trip to Thailand part 8: No Place for Claustrophobes

As usual, I will quote the material and then comment on it.

Unaware of what was in store for us, we signed up for the cave tour. We were told to wear good shoes and to expect to lie down - all sage advice. Nobody else had signed up so we had the van, driver, and guide to ourselves. Everything seems to be a long drive from the town, so we settled in to watch the scenery. Again, the cliff sides were magnificent and the entrance to the cave was right up against a great wall of streaked and striated limestone. Water running down the surface creates all the stalactites and mites on the outside, so the formations are like drapery, twisted columns and waterfalls of grey and yellow stone.

I had thought Lynn might be going on this trip to the Tiger Cave temple, but from her description, this cannot be the place. It may be the generic cave tour described in this website as being a little grotty.

We got into a low plastic rowboat with room for about 6 people. The entrance to the cave appeared like a long open mouth into which we ducked as we entered. The ceiling was low and irregular and you really had to watch your head. The river soon opened into a vault. We were helped onto a small landing where a well lit path led down and into a number of ornate chambers. Colored lights set the formations apart from the grey walls and it was nice to see that the natural ceiling had been so beautifully preserved. I've been to places where vandals have broken off many of the small, hanging bits - which is such a crime!

Lynn is quite correct that breaking of pieces of the stalactites does tremendous damage to cave formations. In Arizona, my family has been to the famous Kartchner Caverns, where we learned that tourists constantly touching the stalactites damages them. At Kartchner they have gone through great effort to allow tourists to see the caverns while still preserving them. Obviously with the picture of Lynn and Katie with their hands on the stalactites, they haven’t heard of this.

This cave, it turns, out is a shrine. After we had gone for perhaps 50 yards, another great vault opened up. In the center was a large limestone bulge about the size and shape of a 40 foot boat. Rising up from one end of the shape were 3 huge phallus-like projections around which were hung various wreaths, necklaces, and other adornments. Offerings, figures, tiny shrines, and other signs of devotion decorated the mound and we were told that this is where you come to pray if you want to get pregnant - and if you are already in the family way, to pray for the birth of a boy.

The big shock here is that Lynn doesn’t make some kind of snarky comment about the male-oriented culture.

Our guide, Kip, told us that this was such a sacred place that at one time a male member of a tribe would be ritually sacrificed after a big ceremony in order for his spirit to keep the place safe. Nothing like sacrificing a male member... in order to protect the male member.

I had to read this one twice to get it. The male member being protected is the phallus-like projection. My on-line searching did not find any evidence of ritual sacrifice in caves in Ao Nang, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. However, I find it interesting that almost every time I have been on a cave tour in a different country, the tour guide brings up ritual sacrifice. I wonder if it was a popular place for it, or if that's just something cave tour guides like to say to tourists. Lynn's guide’s name is Kip. Her driver to the Krabi town market was Kop. I wonder if these were their real names or if Lynn is just having fun with us. If another person shows up with names like Kap or Kup or Kep, we’ll know for sure.

Back in the boat, we were then instructed to lie back and make sure we were absolutely flat. Dolly Parton would have had problems in this space. We moved away from the landing and suddenly the ceiling came down to the level of our faces. The boatmen paddled as they stooped; one in front, one in back. Kip was behind me and he held my head in his hands. At first this was an irritation, but after a few minutes I appreciated the support. For what seemed like an endless time, we crept through the tiny space.

First a penis joke and with Dolly Parton we have a breast joke. Lynn is in a strange mood with this one. Perhaps it has to do with having her head held in someone’s hands. It may have affected her brain or other body parts.

Hanging projections were close enough to lick and any motion changed the position of the boat enough to make us hit hard. The air was hot and humid. A flashlight lit the way and the sound of dripping water, moving paddles, and breathing was all you could hear. This trip was certainly not for everyone! They said the tunnel was 60 yards long, but it seemed to take forever. I was glad to see light and the great exit vault at the end. We had gone through a path travelled by millions of people for centuries, through a sacred place… and we lived to tell the tale. Next time I'll ask to see the postcards!

It sounds pretty fun to me, but I like caving.

After this, we went to the hot springs - another spectacular natural phenomenon. A series of rounded pools sloped down into a larger pool, fed by a cool stream. What a paradise. After this was another natural spring with more spectacular limestone channels through which warm water flowed in a steady, clear stream into a great sandy pool. No wonder these people don't travel! Why leave such a place??

Lynn is making a lot of presumptions here: People in Ao Nang don’t travel because where they live is a paradise. Look at this website talking about one man’s trip to Belgium and what does he find there? Thailanders.

The hot springs Lynn visits could be this hot springs, however, the description here says, “When you get a bit too hot, simply jump into the river below to cool off. The nearby crystal pool is a lovely place to swim and it has a natural water-slide, which is lots of fun for the young and for the not-so-young too.” I would think Lynn would mention a water slide and a river below, if she saw one. Of course, the reason Lynn might not have seen them is because she is getting bored.

It gets boring after awhile. Phenomenon after spectacular sight after visual wonder after lunch after dinner... and the weather stays hot and clear. Some of the earliest humanoid fossils have been found around here and one wonders why they spread past this peninsula!

This website agrees with Lynn at least about the fossils:

Some anthropologists, however, have argued anthropoids originated in Asia, based on even older fossil finds from Pakistan, Myanmar, China and Thailand.

So Lynn likes the place, but finds the spectacle to be boring, and yet still wonders why any people would have left the area. Hum! If only Lynn could link together her own thoughts.

I just have the elephant ride to tell you about and it won't take long. You climb onto a platform, get onto a flat seat and ride around a path for about 20 minutes. The trainer or whatever he's called sits on the elephant's neck and with his feet and a metal hook, prods the animal to go right or left. It's a bumpy ride and I felt more than sorry for the elephants. The best part is when they pee - it's a wondrous amount of liquid. We also enjoyed watching them eat. We fed them bananas and it was neat to see something stuff a banana into its mouth with its nose.
Well, that's probably enough for today. Tonight we pack once more....and the adventure continues. LJ

I knew we weren’t going to mention elephants without some mention of prodigious amounts of urine. Having gone to a circus before, I agree with Lynn here. Elephant urination is very impressive in its quantities. The description of the elephant trek here sounds a lot more exciting than the one Lynn describes, which doesn’t mean they aren’t one and the same. “The elephant trek takes the visitor through untouched primeval jungle, unlike all other elephant trekking in southern Thailand…”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tea: The Skank-Ho Drink

I and others have made jokes about how the normal beverage of choice of coffee for Elly Patterson does not come out on occasions when Elly is talking about Connie Poirier’s sordid love life. aprilp_katje referred to it as “the skank-ho drink” in her excellent FOOBar comic strip.

So, when I saw today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, I about fell out of chair laughing to see the punch line of the strip. It’s as if Lynn Johnston is admitting that our jokes about tea being the drink for talking about someone’s trashy love life are correct. Elly is on the verge of finally telling us who the infamous “’Allo?” girl is, and then offers Anne Nichols tea in preparation for the event.

As for the rest of the strip, Elly’s description of Connie’s Montreal trip is interesting. She mentions that Connie did not tell Phil that she was coming to Montreal to him and she mentions Connie’s visit to Phil’s apartment and the “’Allo?” girl. However, she does not mention Connie going to the Jazzy Club to see Phil play, which is the real place where Connie considered herself to be rejected by Phil. Are we to presume that Connie did not tell Elly this story? It is certainly her emphasis in this post-Montreal strip. However, wouldn’t Phil have told Elly about the Jazzy club? Or are we to presume from this strip that Elly hasn’t spoken to Phil about Connie’s visit and is lying about Phil’s opinion of her visit to Connie? That’s the way it appears if I take today’s new-run into account.

The first panel of the strip is pure nonsense. Anne hasn’t seen Connie lately. First of all, when does Anne ever see Connie? They haven’t been in a strip together in any of the strips in the last year. In the modern strip they were together briefly before Elizabeth’s wedding and also at Elly’s 50th birthday party.

The add to the ridiculousness, Elly’s explanation for Anne not seeing Connie is that Connie is too embarrassed because of her trip to Montreal. Does that even make sense? Would Connie presume that Elly would tell Anne about her trip to Montreal and paint such a poor picture of her as a man-chaser, she would be embarrassed in front of Anne about it? We saw Connie’s supposed embarrassment in this strip, and it wasn’t true embarrassment, because she was bringing it up with Elly and talking about it. Connie sends Lawrence over to Elly’s place when she is entertaining men at her place, so it’s hard to imagine the Montreal trip would embarrass her.

On the plus side, it seems pretty clear that sometime in the very, near future, possibly tomorrow, we will finally find out the identity of the “’Allo? “ girl. Maybe Elly will even point out that Connie was at the wrong address, but that may be hoping for too much. In the original strip, Phil lived on 271 Rue des Fèves and in the “’Allo?” girl strip that address is now 114.