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Archive for August, 2008

We take a break from vacation blogging to talk about an important event of cultural significance, one that will be talked about at dinner tables and coffee shops today.

No, no, I’m not talking about the fact that Sarah Palin apparently eats babies for breakfast along with her moose smoothies and state trooper omelets. I’m talking about the ending of the comic strip For Better or Worse.

I should say right off that I have not been a FBoW fan since the early days, when the kids were cute and provided a nice antithesis to the sugary, perfect children of Family Circus. Hell, I barely read the comics at all anymore. I get my daily dose of Pearls Before Swine online and when you think about it, everything after Pearls is just crap. Anyhow. I only started reading FBoW again for three reasons:

1. I heard the strip was going to end, and that intrigued me enough to find out if she was going to end it in some obtuse way, like the Sopranos, which would have been cool.

2. I happened to go to the FBoW website and read some exchanges between Lynn Johnston and her fans and realized that this chick is out of her freaking mind. She (and a lot of her readers) have so blurred the line between fiction and reality that it made me curious about how she would bring this thing to a close.

3. Todd is weirdly obsessed with this comic. I think he got pissed off when they killed off the dog, Farley, and has been reading it just to see if Johnston would atone for that grievous error. I like to get to the comic before him in the morning and taunt him with phrases like “OH my god, they killed off April!”

To be completely honest, I was reading it because I really wanted to see how these kids grew up. Unlike the comics of my youth like Peanuts and Dondi, the people in FBoW actually aged and went through various stages of life. Unlike Beetle Bailey, where joining the army apparently stops the aging process.

I liked Michael and Elizabeth and April. They got into trouble. They made their mother miserable sometimes. It wasn’t exactly Calvin and Hobbes, but at least it wasn’t Billy and his stupid footsteps. And while the mother was somewhat predictable and cliche, she had more life to her than Cathy, whose only two emotions were fat and lonely.

So I followed the trials and tribulations of the Patterson family until about the time the kids stopped being precociously cute and started being teenagers. The whole thing turned into a soap opera, like a family friendly version of Apartment 3-G. There was strife and death and illness and unrequited love and I just don’t want that kind of stuff in my comics. The word comic intones that I should be laughing. “Hullooo, zeeba neighbah!” makes me laugh. A dead dog does not.

And now, as you probably know, FBoW has officially ended. I really thought she was going to kill off Grandpa before she closed shop (why not, she killed off Grandma in 1998). Surprisingly, Grandpa lived, which should have given me some indication of just how she was going to wrap this up.

Once again, I will be honest about this. What I was hoping for was never going to happen. A nuclear blast goes off right before Elizabeth and Anthony exchange vows. An ugly home invasion ends in carnage. April turns out to be a meth addict and the strip closes with an illustrated intervention. Explosions. Fire. Brimstone. Hell, I would have even taken Grandpa’s perfectly timed death over what was printed today.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

After all the years of putting reality into her comics – homosexuality, car accidents, a dead dog, hospital stays, death in the family, attempted rape, a house fire, mental disability, a mugging, illness, abusive parents, promiscuity, broken marriages, embezzlement and infidelity – she decided to opt out with a fantastical, storybook ending in which everyone’s hopes and dreams are fulfilled and the FBoW universe is one of fuzzy bunnies and rainbows and unicorns, where everyone smiles all the time and nothing goes wrong.

Seriously. It’s all one big, neatly wrapped package of fluff.

Yea, I know. It’s fiction. It’s Lynn Johnston’s family and she can do whatever she wants with them, no matter how hokey and heart warming. It’s just not fair to Farley that everyone else gets to go to the great comic book retirement pasture as happy, fulfilled, perfect people and him and Grandma are six feet under. It seems ridiculous that there was so much unhappiness thrown into that comic over the years – and I don’t mean Cathy unhappiness where she cries because the donuts went to her hips – and everything should wrap up so neatly.

Forgive me. I’m a cynic and a realist. This is probably why I need my comic strips to be absurdly unrealistic; there’s no chance of me being disappointed when things like “happily ever after” enter into the picture after years of turbulence. I like Pearls Before Swine because it has a zebra and a crocodile living next door to each other and a naive pig and a cunning rat are best friends and no matter what happens, it can’t be out of character or a surprise because what could possibly be a surprise in a strip where your neighbors try daily to kill you in the most moronic ways possible? NOTHING! That’s the point! Nothing is out of the ordinary, nothing is a surprise. And in this last FBoW comic, the over the top happy endings for everyone is a surprise.

Maybe it’s that the wrap up is so hyperbolic. Maybe if Johnston just said “And they all lived happily ever after,” I would have bought it. I would have sighed and said “Well, done, Lynn. Well done,” and forgot about FBoW two minutes later. But, no. She had to make it grandiose. Michael had four published books and a film contract. Ellie and John lived the perfect retired life. Everyone is living out their dreams. There’s no strife in the imaginary future. There’s no stress. Everything went right. Which works well and good in fairy tales, but FBoW, what with it’s rape and death story lines, is no fairy tale.

It just would have sat a lot better with me – and keep in mind that I’m not really a fan of the strip and read it only to mock it to my boyfriend – if there was at least one dose of reality in that ending. Like “April put herself through college by stripping and dealing coke.” Or, “Anthony left Elizabeth when he realized that he was only doing what people expected of him and not what he wanted, which was to be a rodeo clown.” “Michael’s first screenplay was eventually turned into a movie by Michael Bay and got 1/2 tomato on Rotten Tomatoes.”

Or, they all move into a house with a rat and a pig and neighbors who say “hullooo zeeba neighbah!”

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We take a break from vacation blogging to talk about an important event of cultural significance, one that will be talked about at dinner tables and coffee shops today.

No, no, I’m not talking about the fact that Sarah Palin apparently eats babies for breakfast along with her moose smoothies and state trooper omelets. I’m talking about the ending of the comic strip For Better or Worse.

I should say right off that I have not been a FBoW fan since the early days, when the kids were cute and provided a nice antithesis to the sugary, perfect children of Family Circus. Hell, I barely read the comics at all anymore. I get my daily dose of Pearls Before Swine online and when you think about it, everything after Pearls is just crap. Anyhow. I only started reading FBoW again for three reasons:

1. I heard the strip was going to end, and that intrigued me enough to find out if she was going to end it in some obtuse way, like the Sopranos, which would have been cool.

2. I happened to go to the FBoW website and read some exchanges between Lynn Johnston and her fans and realized that this chick is out of her freaking mind. She (and a lot of her readers) have so blurred the line between fiction and reality that it made me curious about how she would bring this thing to a close.

3. Todd is weirdly obsessed with this comic. I think he got pissed off when they killed off the dog, Farley, and has been reading it just to see if Johnston would atone for that grievous error. I like to get to the comic before him in the morning and taunt him with phrases like “OH my god, they killed off April!”

To be completely honest, I was reading it because I really wanted to see how these kids grew up. Unlike the comics of my youth like Peanuts and Dondi, the people in FBoW actually aged and went through various stages of life. Unlike Beetle Bailey, where joining the army apparently stops the aging process.

I liked Michael and Elizabeth and April. They got into trouble. They made their mother miserable sometimes. It wasn’t exactly Calvin and Hobbes, but at least it wasn’t Billy and his stupid footsteps. And while the mother was somewhat predictable and cliche, she had more life to her than Cathy, whose only two emotions were fat and lonely.

So I followed the trials and tribulations of the Patterson family until about the time the kids stopped being precociously cute and started being teenagers. The whole thing turned into a soap opera, like a family friendly version of Apartment 3-G. There was strife and death and illness and unrequited love and I just don’t want that kind of stuff in my comics. The word comic intones that I should be laughing. “Hullooo, zeeba neighbah!” makes me laugh. A dead dog does not.

And now, as you probably know, FBoW has officially ended. I really thought she was going to kill off Grandpa before she closed shop (why not, she killed off Grandma in 1998). Surprisingly, Grandpa lived, which should have given me some indication of just how she was going to wrap this up.

Once again, I will be honest about this. What I was hoping for was never going to happen. A nuclear blast goes off right before Elizabeth and Anthony exchange vows. An ugly home invasion ends in carnage. April turns out to be a meth addict and the strip closes with an illustrated intervention. Explosions. Fire. Brimstone. Hell, I would have even taken Grandpa’s perfectly timed death over what was printed today.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

After all the years of putting reality into her comics – homosexuality, car accidents, a dead dog, hospital stays, death in the family, attempted rape, a house fire, mental disability, a mugging, illness, abusive parents, promiscuity, broken marriages, embezzlement and infidelity – she decided to opt out with a fantastical, storybook ending in which everyone’s hopes and dreams are fulfilled and the FBoW universe is one of fuzzy bunnies and rainbows and unicorns, where everyone smiles all the time and nothing goes wrong.

Seriously. It’s all one big, neatly wrapped package of fluff.

Yea, I know. It’s fiction. It’s Lynn Johnston’s family and she can do whatever she wants with them, no matter how hokey and heart warming. It’s just not fair to Farley that everyone else gets to go to the great comic book retirement pasture as happy, fulfilled, perfect people and him and Grandma are six feet under. It seems ridiculous that there was so much unhappiness thrown into that comic over the years – and I don’t mean Cathy unhappiness where she cries because the donuts went to her hips – and everything should wrap up so neatly.

Forgive me. I’m a cynic and a realist. This is probably why I need my comic strips to be absurdly unrealistic; there’s no chance of me being disappointed when things like “happily ever after” enter into the picture after years of turbulence. I like Pearls Before Swine because it has a zebra and a crocodile living next door to each other and a naive pig and a cunning rat are best friends and no matter what happens, it can’t be out of character or a surprise because what could possibly be a surprise in a strip where your neighbors try daily to kill you in the most moronic ways possible? NOTHING! That’s the point! Nothing is out of the ordinary, nothing is a surprise. And in this last FBoW comic, the over the top happy endings for everyone is a surprise.

Maybe it’s that the wrap up is so hyperbolic. Maybe if Johnston just said “And they all lived happily ever after,” I would have bought it. I would have sighed and said “Well, done, Lynn. Well done,” and forgot about FBoW two minutes later. But, no. She had to make it grandiose. Michael had four published books and a film contract. Ellie and John lived the perfect retired life. Everyone is living out their dreams. There’s no strife in the imaginary future. There’s no stress. Everything went right. Which works well and good in fairy tales, but FBoW, what with it’s rape and death story lines, is no fairy tale.

It just would have sat a lot better with me – and keep in mind that I’m not really a fan of the strip and read it only to mock it to my boyfriend – if there was at least one dose of reality in that ending. Like “April put herself through college by stripping and dealing coke.” Or, “Anthony left Elizabeth when he realized that he was only doing what people expected of him and not what he wanted, which was to be a rodeo clown.” “Michael’s first screenplay was eventually turned into a movie by Michael Bay and got 1/2 tomato on Rotten Tomatoes.”

Or, they all move into a house with a rat and a pig and neighbors who say “hullooo zeeba neighbah!”

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vacation pictures!

And only about 1/4 of them!

inspiration point, emerald bay

I am only on day two, have not even begun to write the blog post that I want to about this strip. The pictures I uploaded so far are here. There are descriptions and stories and what not, should you be interested.

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home

home.

That was what you would call a whirlwind vacation. We packed so much into seven days (five, really – I don’t count flying days) that we came exhausted and glad to have three days to recover before we head back to work.

Sacramento, Lincoln, North Lake Tahoe, Tahoe-Donner, Truckee, Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove, Lincoln, Old Sac, Fair Oaks, Sacramento again -with stops in Minnesota an Atlanta. Lots of miles, one tram ride up the mountains of Squaw valley, one birthday boat ride around Emerald Bay, a ridiculous amount of food, lots of walking, train museum, beaches and mountains, a tour of Todd’s childhood haunts, vegetarian burgers, roosters in the road, deer in the yard, one tattoo session, hanging out with old friends, time with Todd’s parents, 1,000 photos, intense heat and whole lot of fun. And somewhere in there I read a book and started another.

I have a day’s worth of photo processing/uploading ahead, news to catch up, unpacking to do…I hope to have most of the pictures up on flickr tonight and a recap of the vacation here. I think the only thing worse than forcing someone to look at vacation slides is asking people to read your blog about your vacation. But I will do it, anyhow.

Oh, we never did get to the State Fair. Eating deep fried White Castle burgers was not a good enough reason to brave the crowds and heat.

Stay tuned for pictures.

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going back to cali

going back to cali

Todd hates when I call his state Cali. But this song has been running through my head all day.

The dog is packed up for a stay at my cousins’ house, where she will vacation with her two favorite Labs. The kids have been given the “I trust you, don’t make me not trust you anymore” speech about being home without us. My parents have assured me they will have the kids over for dinner every night so they don’t starve to death.

We leave tomorrow, so this is it from me until August 30th or so. I might sneak a blog post in from California, but most likely not.

Our itinerary, should you care: One day at the State Fair in Sacramento, where I will so far be dining on deep fried White Castle burgers (the voting is still open). Then we’ll spend a couple days at Todd’s parent’s place in South Lake Tahoe, where we will celebrate my birthday. Then it’s back to Sacramento (though we are staying at Todd’s parent’s house in Lincoln) to spend some time with Todd’s friends. This will include sushi, Mexican food, Todd getting his tattoo colored by his BFF Nelson (and me possibly getting a tattoo), and one night at a comedy club in Old Sac where a friend of ours is doing stand up. Possibly, if we can squeeze it in, a ride down to Berkeley to hang out with Dr. Frank for a bit and visit with one of my TotalFark friends. And I can’t forget spending some time with Todd’s parents. I kinda dig them. And I love to hear the stories they tell about him.

A jam packed vacation during which at no point will I think about work. Landlords, tenants and evictions be damned. I am washing my mind of that crap. I have a birthday to celebrate, California style.

Enjoy the last unofficial week of summer, everyone. See you soon!

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what a difference four years makes

Talk about extremes.

Four years ago I was non stop blogging about the election, full of piss and vinegar and frothing with a near-manic zealousness. I had a press pass to the RNC, and was running Command Post at full election steam.

Four years later, don’t even know when the RNC is. I know the DNC is this week, simply because I’ve been blog reading.

It’s not that I don’t care, of course I care about the future of our country. But I am so down on both of our choices for president that I’ve almost put my head in the sand about the whole thing. It all reminds me of the 2000 election when I threw up my hands and voted for Nader.

There were quite a few things that led me to be so uninvolved as opposed to 2004: removing myself from the political/news blogging world; an effort to do away with things that were causing negativity in my life, which included reading/watching the news nearly 24 hours a day; regaining my sanity and thus control of my life, and just not having the time to devote myself to all election, all the time.

The distance I have removed myself from the election worries me a bit, as I never want to be one of those people who just don’t care. I care, I really do. But I can not muster up enough emotion about either candidate to get out there and be a cheerleader for either one.

Four years ago, it was a party line election. Democrats were clinging to their candidate, Republicans to theirs. Four years later, it’s not that way at all. A lot of people I talk to don’t feel like either party is offering them anything to be gung-ho about right now.

Four years ago, I was sure of what I stood for. I might have imagined violence upon anyone who didn’t agree with me, I was so sure I was right. Four years later, I feel like I was wrong about everything, including my attitude. And if I had to choose one of these candidates as an example of what I stand for, I couldn’t.

Four years ago I had no fear about our future. I had no worries that who we were choosing to run this country would do the best for us. Four years later, I can only laugh at my naivety and wonder where the hell my head was at. And then look at what we have in front of us and know that there are very few people who feel so sure about their candidate. In fact, I know more people who still don’t know who they are voting for than people who do. Four years later, I am unsure about the future of this country. I am worried about everything from the war to the economy to the safety of our infrastructures.

Is it because our choices are different, I’m different, the world is different or a combination of everything?

Four years ago, I felt a strong divide in this country, between left and right. I felt like something was happening, something not very good, like we were on the brink of a civil war.

Four years later, I feel a strong divide in this country, but it’s no longer between left and right. It’s between the people and the government. I see Democrats and Republicans sitting down together discussing their worries and fears. I see a common thread of disenchantment in the conversations of both left and right. Have we finally gained a middle ground between the two, based on discontent? Are we on the brink of something?

Four years ago, I would have further looked into this, engaged people in conversation about it, used my post 9/11 anger and rage to work myself up into a frenzy of activism. Four years later, my attitude is “it is what it is” and “it will be what it will be.” The anger and rage are gone. The misplaced passion has been put to better use, and my arrogance has been squashed.

Four years ago, I was a registered Republican. Four years later, I am Independent. And completely unsure of who deserves my vote.

Where’s Ross Perot and his pie charts when you need him?

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Had a little fun with this on Fark, so I thought I’d ask you –

If you could erase any five bands/artists from music history, who would you choose?

Difficulty: “but if you erased (insert band here) then all your favorite bands wouldn’t exist” is not a valid answer. We’re talking fantasy here.

My answers were:

Bruce Springsteen
Aerosmith
Van Hagar
The Eagles

And yes, I’m going to say it.

AC/DC

Yours?

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poll: deep fried love

one froggy nightNext week, I will be attending the Sacramento State Fair. My sole purpose of going to this fair (ok, besides the opportunity to put my new wide angle lens to good use) is to experience the deep fried goodness of Chicken Charlie.

Now, I am not really big on fried foods, but the novelty of some of these treats makes me want to try them. My first experience with fair fried food was recently, when I tried these Oreos:

deep fried love, come on give me the grease (365-182)

Yes, they were good. But I could only eat one. At a time.

So what does the famous Chicken Charlie have on his plate this year?

Twinkies, Oreos, Pop Tarts, Spam, frog legs, cheese ravioli, avocado, onion strings, zucchini, artichokes and mushrooms. This year, the hot new items are deep-fried White Castle hamburgers and frog legs

I’ve had fried ravioli and oreos before, the vegetables are passe and I had frog legs last weekend. Oh, and I loathe Twinkies. UnAmerican, I know.

That leaves me with the choice of White Castle burgers, Spam or Pop Tarts. Deep fried, all of them.

There is a poll over on the sidebar. Vote for which one I should try, and I will eat, photograph and possibly regurgitate it.

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new PJM article – PETA becomes a parody of itself

Ok, PETA has been considered a parody for a long time.

This one is really about extreme activist groups like PETA, ELF, etc. and how a kinder, gentler message might get more people to listen to their point of view.

Here.

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Art La Flamme put a lot of effort into reviewing all six Star Wars movies. We got to twittering about the Jedi and whatnot, and I told him I would repost my review of Revenge of the Sith, to counter his very creative review.

This was originally written May 20, 2005, about three minutes after returning home from seeing the movie:

dark darthSo. Where to begin. I’m kind of giddy right now and waaay overtired and I’m just going to ramble on, hit save and go to bed without editing or proofreading anything.

First, this: I am not going to sit here and pick out the flaws and bitch about continuity. And yea, the dialogue was mostly horrid, but I knew that going in. I expected no less. The acting? I don’t think Hayden Christensen is going to win any Academy Awards in his lifetime.

I went into this movie expecting several things. Mostly, though, I wanted a line to be drawn from A to B, A being Anakin Skywalker and B being Darth Vader. And I got it.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. It was everything I expected and more important, everything I wanted. It was exciting and dramatic and emotional and dark.

Do you want to know how much of a geek I am? I can’t believe I am going to admit this here. When the opening scroll started and the music began I actually teared up. I swear to you, there were tears in my eyes and I almost, nearly started crying. And I’m not the only one. There was a palpable sense of relief in the theater when the scroll came up. Like everyone sighed at once. Finally, our questions answered. The closure. The scroll and the music is the beginning of the end, and it’s very bittersweet because you know that once the movie starts, you’re on your way to it being over. Not just the movie being over, but the whole Star Wars saga that you spent 28 years of your life thinking about and talking about is over.

I thought they did an excellent job of explaining the transformation of Anakin to Vader. It made perfect sense to me. Palpatine played on Anakin’s sense of love; his love for Padme and his love for power and Palpatine knew that the love of power would grow and eventually dwarf the love for Padme once Anakin got a taste of it. He knew that Anakin was afraid of Padme dying so he fed him all that bullshit about bringing people back to life to get him interested in what the dark side could do, and when he had his interest, he went for the kill by making him angry with the Jedi Council. Because what feeds the dark side? Anger. That’s why Palpatine told Anakin it was he who killed Padme- he would be consumed with losing the thing he loved the most (a recurring statement of sorts in the movie) and that anger and rage would make him even more powerful and fearsome.

When Anakin finally, really becomes Vader – not in that cheesy naming scene, but in the scene where he’s being fitted with the Vader parts and helmet – when he takes that first breath and you hear James Earl Jones’s voice for the first time, and he takes that stiff step (pure homage to Frankenstein there) – goosebumps. I mean, the whole theater just sucked in their breath and waited for it and when he did the Vader breathing and then the voice, you could just feel it, like tension being let out. A bunch of people even applauded and I know why they did. Because there it was – the culimination of the wait. Go back to what I said in a previous post:

I know what’s going to happen in this movie, I know how things are going to turn, how they are going to go bad, and while I can’t wait for that clank sound in my head, when it will be like two train cars hooking together, when everything makes sense and one film flows into the other, it will be both satisfying and sad.

Exactly. Just like I imagined it. Everything came together. I don’t know how else to describe it and for anyone who is not a huge Star Wars fan, the moment won’t mean nearly as much. But for those of you who, like me, invested 28 years in waiting to have the connection made on film, it’s an amazing, spine tingling moment. But yea, it was sad, too.

The whole movie was beautifully played out – the lightsaber battles (Yoda ROCKS) and the emotional tug of war, and that one scene where the rebellion happens – it was so reminiscent of the Godfather (if you’ve seen both movies you’ll know exactly what I mean) and I thought that whole scenario was very powerful and sad, in many ways. And seeing how Anakin gets so defeated in the lava scene, and Obi-Wan just standing there, watching him suffer like that, that was a really sad and powerful scene, too.

Yes, there were a lot of hokey parts. When she names the babies as they come out, that seemed just weird, and Vader’s cry of NOOOOOO, and “hold me like you held me on Naboo.” Ugh. But those moments were fleeting.

And on that now infamous NOOOOOO scene, I think people are kind of overplaying the gack effect of it, because you have to think – it’s not that he’s just pissed that Padme is dead or even that he killed her, I think the cry is one of anger at himself, at knowing the transformation is really complete and he is now a monster. Which we all realized when he killed the kids in the Jedi temple. My son gasped when that happened. A lot of people did. Sure, he’s Vader, but kids? Younglings, rather. That’s what they called them. Cheesy, I know. Anyhow, I guess it that “noooo” yell was some kind of catharsis, because we all know that after that (in subsequent movies) he seems to rather enjoy being Vader.

I love this movie. I can’t decide if it’s going before or after Episode IV in my rankings of SW films. I’m going to see it again Sunday night and I’ll decide after that. But it definitely goes before Jedi.

I love this movie.

Some day, when this one comes out on DVD, I am going to watch all of them in one sitting, in the proper order. I think a lot of people will. Viewing the story as a a whole piece instead of parts of a whole will be novel. George Lucas may be a lot of things, but he is best at being a storyteller.

Thank you, George Lucas. I hate you, I still do. But thank you.

I love this movie.

——–

My god, I’m a geek.

And just to touch on something I said to Art about the Jedi, I found a post I wrote ten days after I first saw the movie that sort of sums it up:

So after sitting through my third viewing of Revenge of the Sith, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Jedi suck.

Really, they piss me the hell off.

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