Everyone has idols.
One of mine is Bill Amend, the creator of the comic strip, Fox Trot.
I have been a fan of his work for more years than I can remember.
I can honestly say that Bill’s work has had the biggest influence on my own writing and drawing style.
So when someone of his stature throws out a challenge… you respond!
Today’s ‘toon is my response to Bill’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” nomination of cartoonists everywhere to help raise awareness of ALS. It was my pleasure not only to write and draw this cartoon, but more importantly, to donate to the cause.
At last check, over 93 million dollars has been raised since people began pouring buckets of ice cold water over their heads!
Now that’s impressive!
But, it’s not too late…
If you haven’t already done so, please consider helping fight this horrible disease by donating.
It is fast and easy!
For more information go to www.alsa.org
In case you didn’t notice, today’s ‘toon was a nod to one of my all time favorite comic strips, Calvin And Hobbes. It was brilliantly written and drawn by Bill Watterson from 1985 to 1995. The strip was distributed by Universal Press Syndicate and appeared in over 2,400 newspapers worldwide. In my opinion, the artwork and writing are second to none. Watterson, Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Bill Amend (Fox Trot) are the three cartoon strips that have influenced my cartooning style the most.
So last week, while on vacation by a lake in northern Minnesota I had the time and opportunity to finally read a book that has been collecting dust on my nightstand.
The book, “Looking For Calvin And Hobbes” is written by Nevin Martell and is about his quest to secure an interview with the man behind Calvin And Hobbes, Bill Watterson.
As it turns out, Watterson has basically been in hiding since his strip ended on December 31, 1995.
He has only granted a few interviews during his career, mostly in the 1980′s and is very reluctant to do so now.
To say he doesn’t seek the spotlight and fame is an understatement.
So Martell, having been a huge fan of Calvin, Hobbes & Watterson during his childhood, sets out to secure what he views as the interview of a lifetime! Along the way we hear from friends and colleagues about their experiences with Watterson.
Martell does a good job of chronicling Watterson’s life and career and his love of the strip is clearly evident throughout the book.
If you are a fan of the strip or cartoons in general, I would recommend reading the book!
Some of the things I learned…
He was a struggling editorial cartoonist before hitting it big with Calvin And Hobbes.
United Features Syndicate rejected the strip.
It was a challenging working relationship with Universal Press Syndicate.
Why haven’t we seen Calvin and Hobbes merchandise in stores during the years? Bill Watterson was absolutely against the merchandising of his characters. Turns out Watterson turned down millions of dollars in merchandising deals during his career. This didn’t make Universal Press very happy.
Along with refusing merchandise offers, he also gave a thumbs down to an animated movie too!
With the strong success of the strip, he had enough leverage to regain sole ownership of his strip and characters from Universal Press…this helped with being able to reject merchandise offers.
He would often tear up strips that he felt weren’t good enough.
He didn’t seek or enjoy the fame…He doesn’t grant interviews and he didn’t even show up to receive the many awards that he earned during his career.
He felt very strongly that a strip should end when a cartoonist retires or passes away. (This was viewed as a jab at long running strips that have had other cartoonists carry on well after the original cartoonist was gone.)
Last Saturday I was in Des Moines to run in the Dam To Dam Half Marathon.
It is a race that begins at 7:00 AM atop a dam on Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines and ends 2 miles after crossing another dam in downtown Des Moines.
This was the 35th edition of the Dam To Dam, the seventh time that I have ran it.
However…there was one slight change this year…
Dam To Dam 2014 was now a HALF Marathon (13.1 miles)!
Traditionally, it has been a 20K (12.6 miles), but due to some circumstances with the city and the growth of the race itself, the finish area was moved to the other side of downtown and the route changed to a half marathon. This was done to help with traffic congestion associated with the race as well as a heavily attended (& very cool) Farmer’s Market.
So it’s a half marathon now…my second half in three weeks (Fargo Half Marathon)…I felt good heading into the race.
Some of the highlights & lowlights…
With a 7:00 start, I was was up at 4:00 AM, grabbed a quick bite to eat and left my sister’s house and headed to the one of the shuttle bus pick-up spots at a nearby shopping mall.
A race volunteer misdirected arriving runners to the wrong area of the parking lot to catch the shuttle. (In his defense, it was 5:00 AM, dark and probably his first time working at that location. It did make for a slight pre-dawn traffic jam in a mall parking lot, as well as some confused looks by late arriving runners who were at the normal pick-up spot and saw full buses zipping past them and having no clue as to why!)
We made the 10 mile trip to the dam. It’s always fun meeting other runners and hear their stories, plus it helps to get the adrenaline flowing! (At the packet pick-up the night before I had the pleasure of meeting the record holder in the Dam To Dam, Phil Coppess. He ran the 1985 20K version of the race in a record time of 59:23:00. He is also the record holder of the Twin Cities Marathon in a time of 2:10, so it was fun to meet him and get his autograph on a race poster.)
Okay, back to the highlights…
It wasn’t raining and it was warm, which made the wait for the start of the race nice.
It was cloudy… with little shade of the first part of the course, this was a good thing!
The field was capped at record 9,000 runners this year…lots & lots of runners!
There were four people running who had ran every single Dam To Dam, the oldest was 74!
There was a breakfast burrito waiting for me at the previously mentioned farmer’s market…I just had to get to it!
At 7:00 AM sharp…
The first mile was downhill!
A few lowlights…
It was warm…DAM warm (sorry)!
A race record start temp of 72 degrees and a dew point of 80…it was muggy!! Not good for someone who had been training in the frozen tundra of Minnesota and not yet used to the heat and humidity!
I ran the first 3 miles in slightly under 24 minutes and developed soreness in my right achilles tendon. With all of the running injuries I have had, this was not one of them! I briefly stopped and stretched and continued on, but it was sore the entire way.
It began to rain at mile 5. It actually felt good…but I knew once it stopped that it would just raise the humidity level. Also, my feet were now wet. (My goal was to finish before the sun broke through the clouds.)
There was an awfully big hill just past mile 6! Did it get bigger from previous years??? (It is also referred to as “Memorial Hill”…a cool tribute to all who have served & serves our country!)
Past the hill and into some neighborhoods that support race like no others!
To whoever was passing put the ice at mile 9…THANK YOU!!!
Mile 11…just crossed the second dam…where was the traditional finish line? Oh yeah…the other side of downtown! (Loved running down the new riverwalk…but I was running out of gas!)
Mile 12…all that was left was another DAM hill! (The traditional drum line playing about 600 meters from the finish is always a burst of energy for me!)
I made it up the hill and finished in a time of 1:57:31…good for 1,596th place out of 7,359 finishers.
I met up with my sister and brother-in-law and we headed for that much anticipated breakfast burrito!
Which was now, ONLY a 15 minute walk away!
Here is a cool video of the race…courtesy of David Mable…
Let me make one thing perfectly clear…
I am not a dancer!
Nor will I ever be one!
My daughter, on the other hand, is!
She spends hours upon hours practicing and performing many routines.
To be exact…about ten hours per week in the studio spread out over four days a week. Practice began sometime last August. She also competes, along with her fellow dancers in three competitions in March and April. It’s a big commitment, but it’s something she loves and is pretty good at.
Another thing I want to make clear…
She gets absolutely NONE of her dancing ability from her father!
I consider bending down, putting my shoes on and tying them, a successful dance move! And if there is music playing while I’m doing this…all the better!
I also forgot to mention one thing about my daughter’s schedule…
There is an end of the year recital. This is where the entire studio performs all of their dances in front of an audience of parents, grandparents, relatives and friends!
This year’s recital took place this past Saturday.
Another thing about the recital…
The closing dance is one in which the very talented girls are joined on stage by their less-than-talented DADS!
Yes, for the second year in a row I was taking part in the recital’s “Father/Daughter” Dance!
Or as I like to call it…
Ninety seconds of trying not to become a viral video sensation on YouTube!
Now, us dads did not have months and months to “perfect” our routine. We got together for about five hours over the course of a month leading up to the recital. Early morning practice sessions during which we were barely awake long enough to remember our names let alone remember how many beats we had to move across a stage!
But, somehow we were able to pull it all together and nobody got hurt along the way!
However, just like last year, I was out of town for our last formal practice, which once again led me to run through the routine over and over in my head while watching the recital from my seat in the auditorium!
Now what was I suppose to do? And when?
I spin here, take a knee here, lift my daughter after what?
We did have a “rehearsal” on stage, the night before the show. But it was running waaay late and by the time they got to the dad’s dance…well let’s just say…our first “run-thru” resembled a herd of animals attempting to walk across a frozen pond!
Thank goodness there were no judges to impress! Had there been, I’m quite sure my score would have been something like Flounder’s grade point average in the movie, “Animal House”…
This year’s dance was called, “Game Plan”. It was a football theme. The dads wore football jerseys and the daughters wore tutus.
As for the dance…
I have to say…it went pretty well!
I spun, I twirled, I lifted my daughter. The dads “huddled” up, we formed two lines and in somewhat less than synchronized fashion, we fell one by one face first to the floor and jumped our partner, who was rolling towards us. Then if that weren’t enough to bring down the house…we formed what was suppose to look like an offensive line and our partner dad then proceeded to “leap frog” us “linemen”.
We closed with a dad doing a run across stage, which included two back flips, followed by our daughters taking the stage and us dads joining them for the final segment of a song.
And then it was over!
The best part…
When we were done, my daughter was on my knee and she kissed me and told me that she loved me!
Can’t wait to do it again next year!
That pretty much sums up the “Big Game” yesterday!
Now for the ads…
They weren’t much more exciting than the game, but here are my favorites…
Honorable Mention goes to Go Daddy for its “I Quit” ad.
A 36 year old engineer actually quit her job to start a puppet selling website during the spot.
A far cry from Go Daddy has done in previous years!
3. (Tie) Doritos “Time Machine” & Doritos “Cowboy Kid”
I liked them both and thought they were interchangeable!
2. Stephen Colbert as a pitchman for pistachios.
I liked the way they split the spot into two and how they both played into Colbert’s strengths.
1. Radio Shack
“The 80′s called and they want their store back!”
Well done and very funny with the ad featuring stars such as “Alf”, Hulk Hogan, Erik Estrada as Ponch from “CHiPs” and John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin from “Cheers” to mention a few as well as music from Loverboy! I loved how they emptied the store and loaded everything onto a Delorean and took off!
Yesterday’s date was February 2nd.
Which meant that not only was it, “Super Bowl Sunday” but it was also, “Groundhog Day”…(Looked like Peyton Manning knew it too!)
Of course I never rely on “Punxsutawney Phil” for my predictor as to how much winter remains, but rather, I annually check the size of the shadow cast by the pile of snow at the end of my driveway!
Here is a shot from yesterday…
As you can see, the shadow clearly extends well beyond my yard, across the street and into my neighbors, which means…
SIX PLUS weeks of winter remain!