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As we all know, the Mike of the Early Years acted like a real weirdo when Lawrence got dragged off to Thunder Bay because his idiot mother didn't want to face what she expected would be the derision and scorn of the masses for her self-induced plight. While a regular person would note that the beige kid had moved away, shrugged and become insta-friends forever with the kid with glasses, Mike acted like a teenaged girl moping because "You Don't UNDERSTAND, MOTHER!! You're OLD and you've forgotten what Love IS!!!!" had left for Uni and more or less declared they were on break; this off-kilter take on childhood friendships plodded mercilessly on with the two of them acting like lovers who'd almost forgotten each other after Connie moved back in with a rich husband to wave in the faces of men who'd moved on and forgotten her, thanks loads.

The reason that I mention this is that despite the fact that the Michael of 2017 still probably thinks of Lawrence as his friend instead of Liz's, the plain fact is that after Martha enters the picture, their friendship is effectively at an end. In a heart-beat, he turns into bosom pal who Mike can't live without into one of the following three things:

  1. An immature jerk trying to drag Mike back down into being a useless, irresponsible single person instead of someone good trying to make his way in the world the only acceptable way by impressing a female contemporary.
  2. A rival for Martha's affection.
  3. Mike's token gay friend who Mike is as warm to as Connie and Greg are for much the same reason.

Anyone who hurts Lynn's feelings by paying attention to continuity is probably going to note that after 1 September 1988, the role of Mike's actual best friend stops being 'beige kid from next door' Lawrence and starts being Gordon "Stumbling Idiot Wingman" Mayes because he also wants to make his mark and be a husband instead of a boy.
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The odd thing is that when one parses through what Lynn has said about the strip over the last nine years since the Settlepocalypse is that she really does consider the Patterson's story to be essentially over because after years of setbacks and dead ends, Elly got what she really wanted out of life. You would have thought we could have ended it when Mike took over the mortgage to the Pattermanse but that would be wrong. Keeping the house in the family was nice and being able to live vicariously through him felt good but that wasn't what she wanted. Getting April out from underfoot so she could finally have that empty nest she wanted was sort of a good thing but that wasn't Job One either. No, what Elly really wanted was to prove to herself that marrying John wasn't the biggest fucking mistake she'd made in her life and the way that was supposed to happen was to have Liz marry Anthony when they both got out of uni. She'd had to wait a longish while because obstructions to her happiness falsely and criminally kept insisting that they had rights that needed to be taken into consideration but she got what she needed so it made no sense for Lynn to keep telling a story that was over. This would allow Lynn to take up a new career and her loyal fans would gladly follow her along.

The problem, as [livejournal.com profile] aprilp_katje pointed out, is that the people who loved 'Ellie's lovely column' aren't exactly what you'd call Lynn Johnston fans. What they are is Elly Patterson fans. They wanted and still want to see the characters validating their existences by continuing on as they are. People like Therese intimidate them so they need to see her continual humiliation. Teenagers and young people scare the shit out of them because they represent a world that'll keep on spinning after they die so they need to see April get smacked down hard to make themselves feel better about the cruel reality of their own deaths. They're angry people who take out their discontent about having to raise children on children so they need to see Liz act out their need to drop-kick their teeming get off an overpass and laugh the Sticky-Out Tongued Laugh Of Malice at their brats' broken remains because they were mildly inconvenienced. If someone new were to come along and pick things up from the wedding reception and continue on with screaming at children, threatening April with bodily harm for daring to have emotional needs, talking shit about evil career women and the like, they'd gladly follow this new person and praise her lovely column.
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The irritating thing about the upcoming "Lizzie washes windows the wrong damned way and ends up fearing for her safety" strip is having to remember that Elly always seems to call her mother to scream about how her horrible children have disappointed her. If you're like me, you're going to assume that Marian yearned for the sweet release of Death when Elly phoned because she dreaded having to stifle herself and not ask very good questions because she sort of knew the answers.

First off, Marian had twigged to not being able to ask Elly "Why didn't you tell Lizzie how not to do that chore?" because she'd long ago figured out that her child never quite outgrew the assumption that everyone in the world saw the world precisely as she did. This made Marian afraid because she could foresee something others could not: Elly assuming that "Well, since I wouldn't drink weed killer/play around a river when there's a flood warning/stick a barrette in a wall socket/eat something handed to me by someone who really wanted to see what happened, my child would not either because s/he has my understanding of events" leading to an avoidable calamity.

Secondly, she had long since learned not to ask Elly why she didn't show her how to do the thing because that led to endless whining about how that would mean having to do the chore herself thereby somehow erasing her personality and turning her into a grinning robot without a will of her own who could only care about the unimportant and useless things children wasted their lives with.

Finally, there is one question that was clearly too dangerous to be asked: "Are you setting your children up to fail on purpose just so you can be angry with them because you think that's what being a mother is?" This is because she remembers something that would drive Elly into a big, screaming fit: Elly isn't aware of what she actually believes. Marian knows that Elly assumes sight-unseen that her children are all always-chaotic evil monsters trying to destroy her while at the same time believing herself to be an open-minded parent who believes in the innocence of her children. She can't tell her child that she's a doubleplusgood doublethinker without getting mauled.
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An interesting thing took place recently that reveals something about Lynn that she might not be aware of and wouldn't delight her to be reminded of if she were; that's because she again used the phrase "shadowy figure" to refer to a character that we knew reasonably well: Steve Nichols. Despite her declaration that he's this vague shape in the background who we don't know well, we know him quite well indeed. We know him to be a bog-standard moron sitcom husband who sits on his fat ass watching sportsball instead of being a 'loving' husband and doing chores. We know him to be a husband making an honest attempt to reassure the flake he married that she shouldn't be put to death because their daughter has six fingered hands. We know him to be less inclined to pea-brained autocracy as a parent. Since we do know him very well, this need to turn him into a vague shape we can't recognize and never could means something.

The hint as to what this retconning him into a cipher might mean is remembering that we were all supposed to agree that another man we knew exceedingly well was suddenly this vague, grey shape only now emerging from the Land Of Wind And Ghosts: Fucking ANTHONY!! Up until that sweeping ultimatum, we knew him to be a sort of larval John who'd upped and married a woman he barely tolerated because he'd sort of given up on his twee fantasy of marrying his high school sweetie and was thus frustrated and felt cheated and so on and so forth. The reason that he and Steve were suddenly Men Without History is that Lynn had decided to let her real life tell their stories. As it will be when Anthony varies between being her and Rod when inviting us to cheer on her affair with Rod during her marriage to Doug, Steve is about to become a vessel for everything she hates about her first husband. Thus the need to make of them unknowable figures whom she has to bring into a vindictive light of never accepting personal responsibility for her actions. Also, if we remember who they were before, we're fungus people who want to swarm her at the playground and make her cry forever. 
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The irritating thing about the "Maybe she uses the wrong detergent" strip is having to remember that instead of doing what she should have done, Lynn's outrage that an advertisement actually made an exaggerated claim seems to have driven her to depict Elly behaving like a twelve-cylinder whack-job too enraged by her children's stupidity to behave like a sane, decent person. A better artist would have been a damned sight more low-key about contrasting the glowing promises of the detergent companies and the depressing reality of set-in stains and irritating drudgery.

Jerry Seinfeld points us the way to this when he observes that it's sort of silly to have to watch the people in soda ads act as if their brand of sugary fizzy water is any better than some other similar tasting brand of what's essentially liquid candy. What this would work out to in reality is Elly doing a load of clothes with Blast and making a mildly acerbic comment about how she's not having the effect she sees on television before muttering about how the store brand works the same anyway: poorly. Having an Elly that makes mildly displeased comments about how ad-men have always promised more than they could deliver would be a marked improvement over the screaming lunatic baying at the moon about daggers in her heart.
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The interesting thing about the post-Thelma world is that by any real standard, it can be said to be when what people think of as the Golden Age of the strip actually begins. What's more interesting is what kicks things off: Elly's desire to not get blamed for the end result of having to work with appliances that were obsolete for ten years when she and John moved in. As it started to dawn on most of the readers that most of the reason why Elly made stews and casseroles that sat like hot lead in people's stomachs was that her cheapskate husband didn't see the point of repairing or replacing appliances he didn't use and just as he finally got guilted into acting like a man instead of a petulant child, any number of plot arcs that we had to deal with for years got their start.

First off, we have to deal with the fact that John really doesn't feel like getting to know who the people around him are lest he look in the mirror and see the damned stupid ogre he actually kind of is. He needed to think that Elly was making a big deal over nothing and was actually a helpless, mindless child who wanted to spend HIS money on luxuries that he'd be in hock for forever because it's easier than admitting that he doesn't know who he married and never cared. This eventually becomes not knowing that he'd raised a princess because that was easier than actually fucking deserving to be called a father.

Second, having to dispose of construction waste leads us to having to deal with the 'fact' that Anne Nichols somehow brought the affair that damned near tanked her marriage on herself by being complacent enough to actually tell her husband what he thought of making promises that he never got around to keeping. It also led to Mike admitting that there is no rational God-damned reason for his attacking Elizabeth but that doesn't matter because there's too much made of common sense or acting in one's own best interests. His precious feelings were hurt because he had to share the spotlight and Liz needs to feel miserable all the time for being in his way and there's an end of it. 

Third, and finally, we have to deal with Elly getting frustrated with her kids enough to pack them off to summer camp. This led, of course, to Mike meeting Martha and spending most of the following decade being a shitty, self-serving and whiny little puke of a boyfriend. If there's a social norm that involved him having to not be a festering asshole full of himself, he never wanted to hear it. 

That being said, the Pattersons probably don't understand that all of those odd things came about because Elly finally got tired of a stove stuck on broil and being blamed for things that weren't her fault for once. 

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Of course, the real problem that Elly has is that she's got no idea how her inability to understand or respect the amenities involved in dealing with Mrs Baird's passing make her look to anyone outside the Patterson family's social circle. What she and the others see is probably a friendly person who, having noticed a poooooor old lady with noooo one in her life having gone to her reward unheeded and unmourned, generously stepped in to save the day. The problem is that Thelma was stated to have nieces and nephews who would pretty much see that as their job.

To elucidate on this, let's pay obeisance to Anglo-Canadian naming habits of the post-war years and call one of said nieces Mrs Flora Humphries and let's say that she's marked down as next of kin because she, and not some random jerk dentist's wife with a case of too big for her britches, is executor of Thelma's estate. It would probably appall her to find that when she got off the red-eye from Calgary to the Metro Toronto area, some dozy idiot she knows as "the deluded jerk I bs'ed into thinking I was going to have a puppy put down" is racing around taking over the memorial service and blithely setting aside previously-agreed on plans because she knew best. Only the need to avoid making a scene would have stopped her from tearing Elly a new behind.
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As we all know, the Schulz family have both preserved their father's legacy as best they can AND made a packet of money off said legacy owing to their being fairly canny businessmen. Granted, Peanuts doesn't mean the same thing to the Monster High and My Little Pony generation that it did to us but the characters are still out there and will be for a long time to come. The reason that I mention this is that they have a helping hand that Katie Hadway did not: Sparky intended to fully retire and not insist on creative control for whatever time he had left.

What this translated to was, as I've mentioned before, her failing at creating toys and being a children's book author because she needed to impose her blinkered creative vision on the end product. This led to delays, missed opportunities and animosity between Lynn and her publishers. This is why Katie's having gotten firmer control is a good thing. Not only is a competent publisher going to do a proper job on the treasuries, indulging her mother's need to put her oddball vision of reality on everyday items keeps her distracted and happy.
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There's another advantage to having Liz and Anthony marry right after University that isn't "not totally turning them into colossal assholes" or "making the strip into an absurd bloody farce." Said advantage is that we can work in the need to make the last strip have the pay-off line "for better or for worse" with Elly's long-term desire to live a life without having to deal with what she sees as a host of people running around leaching off of her and never stopping to thank her.

The ending that makes the most sense to me in that instance is Elly talking to John about having to shepherd Liz and Anthony through some minor crisis with their first child and talking about how she feels like a spectator in life now that she's not the one on the spot all the time. It bothers her a lot that while she's still needed to an extent, she's not as needed in the same way as she was when the strip began despite being thanked more. In the scenario I have in mind, John would agree that it would have been really nice to have been appreciated back then, he knows for a fact that it took for him to have kids to appreciate what his folks did for him and, well, for better or for worse, that's just how life is. This would wrap everything up in a nice little bow and not totally turn the characters into horror monsters.
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Having had an excess of time to consider the issue, it seems to me that the single most upsetting thing about the pathetic and stupid way in which Lizardbreath handled her life after Anthony Caine first became a part of it is that it’s very likely that if she were to see a different cast of characters going through the same disturbing motions, she’d probably correctly identify who the idiot characters were and what their sordid and silly motives were. Contrasting this with the obvious fact that she’s oblivious as to what moved Anthony and Therese and how her own actions might be perceived and it’s distressingly clear that she’s too close to the issue to think clearly and honestly about her past.

I would tend to blame not only her not ever reacting all that well to the idea that someone she knows is ‘allowed’ to have a friend who isn’t her because of her deep-seated belief that people require permission to be friends with people but also her dolt love interest Anthony’s attempt to ‘help’ people by saying the wrong damned thing at the wrong damned time. A person with a brain in his head would keep his damned mouth shut about why exactly it is that Therese thought that the passive and clueless nitwit Elizabeth was plotting her ruin but Anthony is as smart as he is handsome and ambitious. This means that he’d want to help everyone out by explaining to Liz what Therese thought she was doing at the Christmas party with a view to forcing them to get along. Liz might have almost accepted the idea that Anthony was allowed to move on even without her express permission but the idea that she’s thought of as a problem or antagonist made her morals and brains go out the window. She can’t think straight because she never liked the idea of being accused of anything and will probably die moaning about the cruelty of being judged for someone else’s sins despite that being pretty much what always happens in the real world. 

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As we know, we are weeks away from Summer Vacation and the many disappointments and discontents inherent therein. While normally, I’d focus on Elly howling in despair because she can’t quite admit that the evil monsters plotting to steal her identity are the unimaginative slug children who need a spotter to remind them to breathe we see, today, I’d like to focus on how Mike never seemed to have a summer break he really enjoyed the way television told him he was supposed to.

This is because despite how Deanna has him conned into thinking that his childhood actually was the carefree romp that John believed it to be, the plain turth is that no sooner did Mike get away from one set of oooooold people who hated fun and thus enjoyed every minute of tormenting children with rules and work for a couple of months of the carefree days he was told he was going to have than did his parents either shove a rake in his hand and call him a shiftless and ungrateful freeloader or act as if he was some kind of monster child that no one should love for objecting to being thought of as a burden that was draining their substance.

The reason that I mention this is that since Elly completely lacks anything like self-awareness, she’s probably wondering why it is that Mike seems to want to destroy his kids’ summers forcing them to work and work and work. Now that she’s not a parent any longer, childhood should be for fun and happiness and freedom from corrosive nagging that makes children feel like crap. 

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One of the odder things that has been called to my attention is the fact that possibly the only real reeason Lizardbreath wanted Howard Erk to get kicked off the planet is that he wasn’t conventionally handsome. When you consider the fact that other potential suitors behave as badly if not worse than he did and Liz considered them Mom-approvable because they look good AND when you remember that Dirk Dagger simply had to be bad news because he’s homely, it’s not hard to see that Lynn seems to think that romance is only for the pretty.

We add in a hint of high school bullshit to the narrative when we consider the fact that Martha indulges in a little bit of hallway politics when she punishes her homely friend Janet for taking advantage in the first Operation Jealousy that went horribly wrong owing to the target being a lunk-headed Patterson who didn’t realize that it was his job to fend off the Other Person. Clearly, a less pretty person cannot afford the luxury of assuming that she can have a boyfriend when a prettier girl is there so so long, Janet, hello, Rose Gamgee In Training Tracey Moore.

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One of the more unsettling trends one had to endure when looking at Patterson children is noticing the enthusiasm girls showed when eating dirt. We started with Lizzie being a dirt connoisseur, spent years having April treat dirt like the other white meat and ended with Meredith tricking Robin into eating dirt so he can see that it tastes better than chocolate. This leads us to how Mike and Robin are pitied for finding dirt to be terrible tasting and also something that you just shouldn't wat.

This, like many other bad things, is due to Little Lindy Ridgway being so enthused and enthralled by the pretend comestibles she made in the backyard of her home that she started to prefer them to actual food. While this is a natural lead-in to jokes about how old dog crap is more delectable than Elly's swill, it leaves me worried that the resultant damage to her taste buds might be why she subsists on beer and snack foods.
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As you know, the consensus is that Lynn's long-term plan for Molly Thomas was to turn her into the victim of a plot thread slightly more retrograde than a Wes Craven movie. As I'd said before, we would have Elly as a Grade Z Mary Worthless dispensing cock-eyed wisdom to all comers, Connie and Greg anticipating their role in the Outening, Molly as the social leper everyone is forced to tolerate for appearance's sake and Gayle as the Last Girl in a slasher flick, there to remind us that Lynn fears female sexual agency almost as much as an asshole Hollywood script writer.

It would appear that I left out someone who is, if not the most important player in the drama, at the very least vital to the Very Special Episode Lynn was told to drop at once by Sensible Muse Tom Johnston: the little boy who has to endure the incoherent babbling about how someone who looks impressive is really a bad person because Mother had a bad feeling about him. Just as the slug-like zombie Anthony was 'really' the best choice for Liz because Elly liked him, Mike would have to be told that only people Elly is fond of can possibly be trusted to look out for his best interests.
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I know that I don't talk about myself or my past all that much but something's been on my mind for a while. Said thing is that three of the elementary schools in my part of Saint John are about three months and change from closing down in order to be replaced by a larger new school this September. This is the end point of a process that seems to have started twenty years ago when this province switched from having junior high schools to middle schools. As it was when they gathered all the middle school students into one place, they're about six months away from doing the same to the K through 5 students because there just aren't enough of them to justify three schools in my area either. This process was given even more impetus because the oldest school is pretty much falling apart because of shoddy construction.

The reason that I mention this is that it sort of makes me wonder certain things. First, I can't help but wonder that if St Pats' Junior High is gone for good, where did I graduate from? Second, how long is it going to take for children to stop thinking of themselves as belonging to their old schools? I ask this because someone told me that the schools that had to absorb the students of the school that isn't safe any more like, well, interlopers almost. This tells me that their decision to place the new one right smack dab next to one of the three that's closing down is going to amplify that problem for the rest of this decade. Oh, sure, in ten years or so, children will have to be told that certain old buildings used to be schools at one point but that's quite a while from now.
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Of course, the problem with watching the current arc is that we're doomed to repeat everything we see. Elly will be horrified by Dirk because her need to be terrified is very strong, Molly will continue to mistakenly believe that she's some kind of misunderstood outcast merely because her father seems to be Lord Errorprone The Stumbler racing around trying to soothe Connie's jangled nerves no matter what the cost to himself or his family and Connie will continue to wail about the horror of ugly grandchildren that wouldn't be related to her even if Dirk were a constipated WASP's idea of Adonis.

The interesting thing is that we're dealing with two forces colliding in order to force Lynn to simply banish Dirk, Molly and Gayle to the small town that all the other characters that didn't last go. The first such force is Lynn's substitution of repetition for character development. This is why Elly never seems to learn that she's chasing a mirage that's ten pounds lighter. It's why John never learns that Elly feels unappreciated and anonymous. It's why Mike never learns that other people have feelings too. It's why Liz spends her life never really figuring out what love is and it's why April is probably still at war with Becky. Lynn loves to repeat herself....unless said repetition gets boring.

This second said force is why sitcom antagonists vanish over time. Lynn might have wanted to continue with the "Why is she dating this ugly boy when she knows that ugly people should die alone and shunned and unloved?" show but it got to be too boring to look at. It's why Janice got nerfed and became a girly-girl and it's why Mrs Dingle learned to love Mike and Weed.
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Every so often, we are treated to a reminder that Elly is not especially good at winter sports. She is too unbalanced to skate, she can't ski very well, snowmobiles give her the galloping fantods and even watching other people enjoy winter activities gives her the willies. Elly's idea of a great winter day is sitting inside with the heat blasting feeling superior to people who stupidly go out in the frozen world of death, ice, snow and icy, snowy death that smart people would do well to avoid.

The reason for this is that Lynn seems to have been a sort of fixture of most neighbourhoods as a child. Every so often, you'd notice that when the temperature dropped down to a certain point, someone, usually a girl, was always found inside with a thousand-yard stare on her face looking at all the people enjoying a brisk winter day her messed-up metabolism turned into a frozen horror. This is why we almost always end winters at the Pattermanse with Elly complaining about how horrible it was to be housebound for five months or so.
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I don't know which of Aaron and Katie's teachers got on Lynn's last nerve back in the mid-eighties. I don't want to know what they did to annoy her. I would rather not speculate as to how ridiculous Lynn's vendetta against them actually is. All I know is that Mr Warren and the rest of the faculty do not acquit themselves actually well during this arc. This is because of three very important stupid facts.

1) They were woefully underprepared for the inclement weather headed their way. Instead of ruining Elly's day by preemptively closing the school in advance like sane people because of the possibility of closed roads and downed power lines, they came up with the stupid plan of sending a flunky out to a convenience store to buy provisions because the hydro conked out and the cafeteria was useless.

2) Instead of grace under pressure and sensitivity to the needs of their frightened charges, the mutants in the staff room acted like panicky infants crying out for mama to save them from the bad, bad storm and thanked the Almighty for his plows and buses and hydro workers when the crisis passed and they could go back to pretending that they were functioning adults.

3) Despite being revealed as incompetent, gutless and worthless, the children are still expected to pay obeisance to the bed-wetters and eunuchs that the State empowered to ride herd on them despite being third-rate people who need books with answers in the back just to get by in life.
dreadedcandiru2: (Indignant Candiru)
The other reason we'd have to endure Elly screeching about the unfairness of life even if we were actually dealing with 2017 conditions is that even if she were actually to be told to stay home, she'd assume that she was good to go anyway and still end up stuck in a ditch like a fool. This is because while she's got an all-weather car, she's a some-weather driver. Almost every time she has to go out in inclement weather, something untoward happens. Either she loses traction and slides into a ditch or she ends up leaving her car outside in freezing rain because she expects her houseguests will read her mind and let her have the garage.

The problem is that one cannot tell her this about herself because she doesn't like being told what her weaknesses and flaws are and never has. What John ends up doing is ducking arguments he knows he can't win and letting her find someone else to blame for her unwillingness to learn from the past. Good thing there was a teenager under the roof up until the early part of this decade. Otherwise, Elly might have to face having to retake her drivers' test to see if she actually can still cope with roadway conditions.
dreadedcandiru2: (Calm Candiru)
As you will recall, I have gone on record as saying that if the Patterson family were ever exposed to a genuine emergency situation, the first responders tasked with rescuing them would be greeted by the appalling spectacle of their huddled corpses found inches away from salvation. The current arc seems to bear that out owing to how ineptly they plan for things and how panicky they get. We have a school district too stupid to pre-emptively shut down school and too overwhelmed to cope with the power outage and lack of foods to be taken seriously and we have Elly and the kids huddled around their meager fire place like savages because no one thought to buy any sort of off-the-grid heating device. About the only people who look smart in this are the city's outside workers and the linesmen who do their thankless but vital job of keeping people like Elly from freezing to death out of sheer stupidity.


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