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Test Pattern: ‘Idol’ wannabe tells all

Plus: Four comic-strip related links. By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
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Five-link Friday: ‘Idol’ confession; Comics-related links

This week, Five-link Friday is finally falling in step with Test Pattern's recent comic strip theme. Oh, all right. Only four are comics-related, but the other is just so topical this week I couldn't resist.

• First off: Did you watch the two-hour premiere of "American Idol" Monday night? If so, you surely remember , the singer with "a ton of different voices" whose friends all told her she was "an awesome singer." Some wondered if Mary was for real, others wondered if she was really all there. But a person who certainly seems to be Mary has left a long post on the "American Idol" message boards, telling the . Fascinating stuff, and I for one believe it really is her.

• And now to the funnies. The Weblog takes fun pokes at some of the strips we've been discussing here, including "Apartment 3-G" and "For Better or For Worse." Says Josh Fruhlinger about "FBOFW" and its current plotline: "You know, I’ve been on plenty of long, dull car trips with my mother, and I’m pretty sure that she’s never subtly encouraged me to pursue someone else’s spouse. Mostly we just play word games."

• Well, if I'm going to link to Josh, I need to link (again) to Bill Bickel's wonderful . Because it's really satisfying to not be the only one who doesn't get the joke sometimes.

• "Mullets" isn't a comic my local paper carries, so I haven't ever followed it. But the strip has a fun gimmick where, due to supposed downsizing, its characters are auditioning at other comic strips. Like And " And And And ... well, just keep hitting "NEXT PAGE" for more.

• I've had this in my bookmarks forever, but it still makes me laugh: . It collects (a surprisingly high number of) in which Mark Trail utters the fragmented phrase "WHAT TH--?" Apparently this is a very common Mark Trailism, much like "FBOFW's" Lynn Johnston's strange attraction to " around random that don't

Comics Hall of Fame

Last time I shared reader comments about . Some loved them, some hated them.

Today, comments on three strips that — can it be? —  seem to be almost universally loved. I say "almost" because I'm certain there's someone out there who has never seen anything funny in these strips, and I'm certain some of them even may have written in to say just that. But as I read through the e-mail feedback, these three strips kept coming up again and again with positive, often glowing notes. Sadly, two of them are gone, but "Fox Trot" trots happily on.

I get a lot of mail saying "No one's suggested 'Dilbert'/ 'Zits' / 'Get Fuzzy' / etc?" Well, yes, someone has. Probably a lot of folks. But call these the first three inhabitants of the Test Pattern Comic Strip Hall of Fame.

'FAR SIDE'‘Missing the Far Side. I still recall the vultures sitting around a deceased cowboy with 10 gallon hats on saying “howdy”, “Howdy”.  Gary Larsen made me laugh EVERY morning!’    --Mona

“I desperately miss ‘The Far Side’ by Gary Larson.  I still laugh when I see birthday cards and other items with his distinctive humor on them.”  --Pam

“Man, I really miss “The Far Side”.  That one-frame, off-the-wall, catch-you-off-guard kind of humor that Gary Larson did so perfectly is hard to find nowadays.”  --Wade

“I do not think I have been able to find another strip as funny as the Far Side since I first read it about 16 years ago.”  --Daniele

“ ‘The Far Side’ is by far the best comic ever written. You’ve got talking animals, nerds, the lady with cat glasses, etc. What’s not to love? The best one ever is where the guy is in the park in a jogging suit standing next to a pair of scissors (that are dressed in a very similar outfit), and he is telling the scissors, “I’m sorry, but all of my friends have advised me not to run with you anymore.’ “  --Tracy

'CALVIN AND HOBBES'“I miss ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ badly!  My kids (ages 12 & 15) have devoured every C&H book in print, so a whole new generation is missing out!”    --Libby

“ ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ - the wisdom these two share is only topped by Pooh and Piglet.”    --Fay

“ ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ was and still is my favorite comic. I saw a lot of myself in the way Calvin was such a fussy eater. Hobbes did bring balance to Calvin’s selfish-ness and I enjoyed his “animal’s perspective” on humanity. Gives us a chance to stop and examine ourselves while making us laugh at ourselves all at once.”    --Chris

“Three words folks - “Calvin - and - Hobbes”. Spoke to the inner child in all of us. Waterson brought our thoughts, and even the ones we didn’t know we had, to life. We miss you guys.”    --Tom

“Calvin & Hobbes was, by far, the best comic strip ever created. I still have the final Calvin & Hobbes cartoon framed on my wall and memorized his “Yukon Ho!” speech for my uncle when I was in elementary was the best!”    --Katie

‘FOX TROT’“I love ‘Fox Trot.’  When ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ went away, newspapers lost a brilliant and devious mind in young Calvin.  But Bill Amend has filled the void with Jason Fox.  (Bill Watterson, we hardly knew ye.)”  --Kelli

“What about ‘Fox Trot’? Probably the most realistic and funny comic strip about the realities of a regular American family.”      --Steve

“ ‘Fox Trot.’ I love Jason.  Perfect geek and a sci-fi nut.”    --Dale

“ ‘Fox Trot. is definitely one of the best out there right now. It’s topical and informative without being preachy and it definitely can follow the modern pop culture trends.”    --Jen

“ Of the comics available to me, I would say ‘Fox Trot’ is probably the best all around.  Who can’t love a week long nog-gone-bad induced Polar Express hallucination?  It was so funny I think I peed a little when I read it.”    --Brett

Great comics debate

Still haven't left the fruitful topic of what we love and hate on the comics pages. Today, I thought it'd be fun to do some pro-con, presenting both positive and negative opinions about three different comic strips  — "Prince Valiant," "Family Circus," and "Cathy." All feedback is pulled from your recent e-mails.

Today we're sharing the strips upon which readers were somewhat divided. I've got an upliftingly long list, though, of strips that seem to receive only good comments ... will share those next.

" 'Prince Valiant' is my favorite. The artistry is clearly the best. The stories distort history and legend somewhat, but at least include a little history and hopefully stimulate a little interest in history and mythology. My only complaint about Prince Valiant is that the story often moves a bit slow."   --Anonymous

CON: "... 'Prince Valiant,' 'Mary Worth,' 'Gasoline Alley,'or 'Rex Morgan, M.D.' Booooring and stuck in time. Serial comics were outdated when libraries started cropping up. They should be unceremoniously retired."    --Robert, Omaha

HEH: "Who the heck is drawing 'Prince Valiant'? I have read this toon for about 40 years but lately, he looks like he had some Joan Rivers Botox work...let him age gracefully...geez."  --Ranks, Seattle

FAMILY CIRCUSPRO: "My family is like 'Family Circus' — and yeah, families seem to cycle through the same events each time a child comes along; the strip lets me chuckle at the life I experience and the way children experience it differently than adults."    --Mark, DC

CON: "The 'Family Circus' is wretched. Everytime I read it I want to 'barfy.' Not this last year but the year before they actually ran a comic that had Jeffy dressed like a cowboy and the other little cartoon idiot child dressed like an Indian and the caption was "Let's play casino". Just not funny! The other thing is that every time the little girls are in the comic they either cannot read or make some absolutely ignorant statement about sports or cars or someother 'boy' thing. It makes me wonder what the cartoonist really thinks about women and minorities. It needs to be scrapped, it's just not funny."    --LB, Denver

HEH: " 'Family Circus' is one of those little gems that appears everytime I pick up the paper. Nowhere else can wholesome family humor be so delightfully intertwined with thoughtful portrayals of deceased grandparents and latent homosexuality."    --Bryan, Florida

"I am sorry Bil Keane had really stupid kids so they can't walk straight from one place to another and end up making wandering lines all over the frame. Do we have to suffer for that?"    —John, New York

CATHYPRO: "I've got news for you, 'Cathy' not only fits the single woman's look at life, but a lot of it fits the married woman too -- it's more about the changes that happens to women than about being single."    --Anonymous

"I have to say that I never liked 'Cathy' until now. I'm getting married in a few months, and she's going through some of the same things that I've been going through. She really is right on with the whole trial of planning a wedding."    --Megan, Louisville

"Yes, I tuned out 'Cathy' a while back, also, but the intriguing question is, 'will she actually get married?' I'm tuned in again to see if the nuptials proceed and if they change the strip's dynamics."    --Chip, California

CON: " 'Cathy' is so predictable I can't stand the strip. Every one is a few words, a few words, a lot of words frantically for four frames, and then a few words punchline."  --John

" 'Cathy' is the most intellectually numbing, impossibly annoying, and utterly ridiculous comic on the planet. Please help make it go away. "    --Patrick, North Dakota

" 'Cathy' used to be funny -- twenty years ago! These days it's just recycled jokes year after year after year. Even her upcoming wedding isn't enough to keep me reading."  —Dawn, New York

HEH: " 'Cathy's' gotta go. It seems to me that all she does is scream about her mother, her paperwork, or her flab... all the while becoming progressively sweatier... what's the deal with the sweating?"  --Melissa, Charlotte