Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking Forward... With Hope

A Moment for Hope

When I started this blog it was my intention to avoid politics. It wasn't a superficial or callow decision. I had put more of myself into the 2004 election than I had to give and the results left me disheartened and cynical, not only about that election, but about what was possible in politics. I have often found myself tempted the last few months, to use this blog to chime in but I've managed to resist the urge. However, I did come to understand that when this election ended I would use this space to voice my after thought. I had thought that, that afterthought, would a commentary about the dirt in politics. But November 4th was a transformative moment, for the nation, and for myself. I have been inspired, by my fellow citizens whom have joined with me to make history, and by this amazing leader whom has made his case by talking directly to us, and, by example, has reminded us about the best side of ourselves. I am, in general, a cynic. I don't believe in believing in politicians. But I do believe in Obama. We don't know exactly what we are going to get from him, but what we've seen is that he is poised, sober, and very very thoughtful and brilliant. I believe we are going to have a leader, and one that is dynamic enough to modify his positions to find solutions that work.

Obama wasn't elected because he was black, but he wasn't elected despite it either. It's not that Obama isn't a brother, it's that he's a brother to all of us. We are all in this together, and not just because we're stuck together, but because we are brothers and sisters. We are not going to find that Obama is the perfect politician, and we are not going to see the end of real world problems. We need to not make the mistake, as they did in the 60s, that we're on the verge of The Age Of Aquarius. But at the same time, we really need to take this moment forward with us. We have grown up believing this wasn't possible and I don't believe as a nation we were ready to move this forward this fast, not only to elect an African American to the presidency, but one with a Muslim name. It has given a reason for the last eight years. But most of all, it shows us that this particular man is more than his race and his name. He is a truly remarkable, brilliant man, who has the ability to assess the situations in front of him, work though a strategy, and effectively communicates his message in a way that enagages, captivates, and inspires, the people he makes his case to. His message is inclusive, and it is an example for all of us.

It has been my desire to leave my daughters a world where they have every opportunity I've had to reach their full potential, and have a healthy, happy life. We have been given a lot of reasons to be afraid. Those reasons are not suddenly gone and there will always be threats. But we have taken a huge step in a day. We have sent a message to the world that we truly are what we claimed to be and I believe we are immediately safer because of that. My daughters, too young to understand what's happening now, will never fully understand what a truly historic moment this is. They will take for granted that there was a time in our history that you could only be a white upper class male in America, if you wanted to be president. And I'm glad about that. I will teach them about the progress of this moment, just as I was taught about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But for them it will be history.

For today, there is reason for hope. And that is something I have not dared to do in a long time. I finally believe my children have a chance for the future I want to leave them.

The Future For Republicans

Take this for what you will. I am not a Republican but I am not so foolish to think that we have seen the last of Republican power. I believe in a balance of power and I can accept that there are needs for checks and balances. What's would be good for Republicans politically is also what will be good for all of us when Republicans do carry power again, which is for the party to become less divisive, and more pragmatic.

The reason Obama won isn't because we know exactly what kind of policies he will give us but because he was calm and poised under pressure, and that he showed respect for the other side. He has been inclusive and promised to be the president of all people, and not just the people whom voted for him. There is a stark difference there to what we got from Bush.

What will the new Republicans be? Will it be about sticking it to liberals, something Obama isn't doing towards conservatives? Because, like the world with globalization, America is changing. A generation is passing and the America that is dawning is not divided with red and blue borders. The liberal is a son or brother to a conservative. The gay or lesbian is a co-worker. Insulting, attacking, and disenfranchising the other side is no longer the winning formula. And it lacks character and dignity.

Obama won because he was positive. He won because he didn't scare people, he made them feel more confident. Obama could not have won without independents and even without some conservatives. The generations are continuing to turn and the country is going to become more comfortable with change as it happens. If Republicans want to tap into that energy, they need to get beyond "liberals suck". Because, though we disagree, it doesn't mean we have to be enemies.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Isabella Suzanne Novak Rules Irish Fest!

08/16/2008 - At the Milwaukee Summerfest ground four year old Isabella Novak shows off her stuff after only six classes with the Cashel Dennehy Irish Dance School. She gets a cool little cameo but the real fun begins when she's cutting loose off stage!

It's not for the hardcore. This is a little girl having fun. She's been excited about getting on stage for a couple of months now and we're really thankful to Cashel Dennehy and Irish Fest for giving a little girl the chance to strut her stuff in front of a few hundred people.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Standing up for Speed Racer The Movie

Some people are enamored with words. Reviewers are often some of these people. Their job after all is to write. Writing a review might not be the same calibur of art than writing something to be reviewed, but if it's what you do, you might feel the need to flex your muscles. I, however, feel that the most important thing about writing is communicating a thought or idea clearly and often the more "artistic" the review, the more confused I become about what the writer is trying to communicate. As a reader I'm not really interested in what intellectual arsenal the writer might be trying to show off. I'm interested in what I get out out of it.

The movie Speed Racer has been ripped apart by critics and for sure, this is not a movie for everyone. But it worked for me and not because of all the special effects or action sequences, but because of the very basic, almost universal morals and values of the movie, and about how clear and genuine it is in communicating those values. We live in an era obsessed with deconstructionism, and we've come to expect our media to be more sophisticated and more abstract. But deconstructionism is nothing new, and frankly, it's become overused and often is unoriginal and cliched.

Speed Racer, however, reminds me of the movies I grew up with in the early and mid 1980s. It reflects a clarity of values (and not in a right wing political sense), where a hero takes a stand against a corrupt institution. There is the theme of the odds being stacked against the hero, the hero's idealism questioned, and then rediscovered in a more mature, less dogmatic, and more aware sense. There is a value to this kind of movie for kids, as well as for adults like myself who need to be reminded. It isn't a complicated message and it's quite opaque, but it is relevant and at least it isn't pseudo intellectual posturing. No, life is never this simple and it rarely works itself out so neatly. But when we can escape into the heroes of fiction we take something out of the story that adds to our lives.

I've seen a couple old episodes of the classic cartoon but don't really know much about the Speed Racer story. I'm sure hardcore fans might have legitimate reason to complain that something might be missing from the continuity. It seemed to me, from what I do know, that the essential story is there, but it cuts to the chase. The cartoon had that anime iconography and what the critics are complaining about regarding the manic visuals is the very literal way it is interpreted to film. For me this movie, not unlike Sin City, helped me see the source material for what I discounted the first time around. This is geek kitsch and there might be any number of reasons why it didn't speak to it's critics. And maybe the the most important one is, it wasn't for them. It might be a cliche, but the right one one; this is a movie for the young at heart.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Remember when Republicans hated commies and only bought American?

It's kind of hard to imagine Ronald Reagan sending business to the U.S.S.R.? But maybe he would have if the Soviets had a couple of billion union-free laborers willing to make make American Girl Dolls on the cheap. Of course, if he did, the Soviets probably wouldn't have gone broke and probably wouldn't have collapsed. For some reason it's okay to do business with totalitarian regimes when it keeps the prices lower.

Of course, the U.S.'s current economic problems couldn't have anything to do with the idea that money and jobs are being shipped out of the country, by the barrel loads, to people who don't spend a cent on U.S. products.

It's kind of hard to imagine Teddy Roosevelt selling out Americans, that he had done so much to protect, to nations that don't recognize the basic rights for workers that he had fought to make law.

What happened to old Jack Arnold who lost buddies in the Korean war and would rip a new one to anyone with a touch of red?

What happened to the Republicans?

They still have their American Flags held up high, never mind that made in China sticker stitched in the corner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tina Fey - The Sexiest Woman on TV

Okay, after a week where absolutely nothing good happened and I couldn't crack a smile even once, I figure it's a good idea for me to post a tacky, cheesy, worthless, and utterly fun topic. I know that I'm not the only straight male who feels this way; Tina Fey is the hottest woman on TV.

First off, lets break down the stereotypes of what men want in a woman. Most of us plateau on playboy by the time we're thirteen. And while I'm certainly not against big boobs, there's something bizarre when they defy gravity. So we all have our own kinks that get to us. Well, Tina Fey is the ultimate woman and here's why:

Brunette - I don't know who came up with the idea that blondes were sexier, but it's bogus. Darker hair is more exotic, more sophisticated, and makes women more mysterious.

Dark Rimmed Glasses - Come on, you know that it worked for Lisa Loeb. Nerdy glasses make a woman sexier. There is nothing sexier than the sexy nerd, whether it be the librarian, the school teacher, or the executive.

M.I.L.F. - Every schoolboy has the fantasy of the teacher who takes advantage of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE! There's not one guy out there who will deny that without lying. Women between 35 and 45 are the perfect age, supposedly prudish, but a sexpot behind closed doors (or so we'd like to believe).

Smart - Smart girls are more intimidating than dumb girls. They're more interesting, more challenging, and more fun!

Neurotic - This is the Yang to Smart's Yin. Vulnerability is sexy. Women have us by the balls. That doesn't mean they should act entitled. Cockiness is tiring and arrogance is unsatisfying. While Guys like to be challenged they don't want women who are inaccessible. Women who act a little insecure are easier to talk to. They're down to earth. So while we very much do want to "hit that", the complete package is someone you can sit and gab and gab and gab with.

Funny - Seriously, like life is not serious enough! Humor is more laid back, more accessible, and just plain needed for making it through this life.

Creative - The Woman is brilliant! Creative women have more passion and are more interesting.

She's Hot - I mean, come on, duh! She's got a cute face, a hot body. It's not the only thing, but we are men after all.

Now you may wonder why a married man like myself can get away with everything I've written above. The answer to that question is two words.

Ashton Kutcher

So if my wife is reading this and fuming at me, as soon she got to those two words she knew I had her. She's nodding her head "yep". That's right, and it's not just my wife. It's all our wives. Ashton Kutcher has brought out the dog in the women of this world. They just can't help but get all hot and bothered at the mere mention of the guy. And we would be threatened except he's a total himbo. I don't think he's a dumb guy but he has this non-threatening childlike persona. You kind of just want to squeeze his cheek and pat him on the head. Even when you catch him sneaking out of your bedroom in the middle of the day.

So there you have it Hollywood, you heard it here first. If you want the ultimate on screen chemistry, Tina Fey and Ashton Kutcher are your pair. The hot librarian and the boy toy. Now, there's a totally worthless and utterly enjoyable movie concept. Just make sure it's Fey writing the script.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BEAN: Interdimensional Mercenary - Now Available For Download

This is material that I did about ten years ago now (with a few modern edits). I wasn't sure if I was going to make it available because it doesn't reflect the current quality of my work. It also contains some personal reflection of a person that is longer me. But I've decided that it was always going to own me to some degree if I didn't set it out there.

Be aware, it contains some strong language.
Conservatives be warned, contains some pretty liberal commentary.

So anyway, here it is, available for download.
All contents are ©Todd Merrick Novak (me).

Download Links
(Choose one)


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Music in The MacBook Air Commercial

The song is called New Soul.
It's by Yael Naim.
The album is also Yael Naim.

Yeah, it kind of grows on ya, doesn't it...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

John Romita Jr and Ron Frenz on Spider-Man in the 80s

There are two artists that defined the look of Spider-Man in the 1980s, John Romita Jr. and Ron Frenz.

While Steve Ditko was the original Spider-Man artist (and my favorite) it was the second artist on The Amazing Spider-Man, John Romita Sr., who created the iconic image of the character my generation grew up with. In the early 80s it was John Jr's turn to make his mark. John Romita Jr. made his first memorable mark as the regular artist on Iron Man (with Bob Layton whose inks defined the character for that decade). His first work on the regular Amazing Spider-Man title was issue #204 in 1980. His next issue was #208 and then became the ongoing series artist as of issue #210. With writer Roger Stern their iconic run included the iconic Juggernaut story (#229-230), The death of the Tarantula storyline (#233-236), some awesome Vulture stories (#224, 240-241), but most importantly the ultra-popular Hobgoblin storyline (#238-239, 244-245, 249-250).

Stern and Romita Jr. left Spider-Man two thirds into one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time. Their final issue together featured a cliffhanger ending against The Hobgoblin. The issue, #250, was inked by Klaus Janson, whom was most popular at the time for inking Frank Miller on Daredevil (and later on Batman The Dark Knight Returns). When Ron Frenz, with writer Tom Defalco, Janson's inks helped make issue #251 one of the most seamless transitions between creative teams ever despite being mid-story. That three part story is one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time.

Frenz first made his splash on Spider-Man in a backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #248 titled "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". That story, written by Roger Stern and which only featured the interaction and dialogue between Spider-Man and a young fan, is one of the most fondly remembered Spider-Man stories of all time. Frenz, with inker Joseph Rubenstein (inkers do make a difference) had a classic take on Spider-Man. His Spider-Man was a morph between Ditko and the elder Romita. With Defalco, Frenz's run included the Alien Costume Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #252-258), The Origin of Mary Jane Watson (Amazing Spider-Man #259), An awesome battle against the cosmic Firelord (#269-270) and the continuation of the Hobgoblin Saga (#251, 260-261, 275-276). Unfortunately the run came to a premature end due to some internal politics at Marvel but the stories leading up to that point are some of the best ever on the character.

The images presented here are two very rare Spider-Man posters published between 1983 and 1984. The first is a Hobgoblin poster illustrated by John Romita Jr. I first noticed this poster as a kid on the wall at Capital City Comics here in Madison. I wanted this poster soooo bad but I could never find it until about a year ago when I purchased the copy shown in this photograph on ebay.

The other poster here, Spider-Man Old and New, is drawn by Ron Frenz. The figures on the left side of the poster feature classic 1960s Spider-Man characters. The characters shown on the right side are the "modern" characters that were popular in the 80s. I actually had this poster as a child. The copy on my wall faced a lot of wear and was trashed. I started looking for it a few years ago and found it to be very hard to find. I've finally managed to get my hands on a couple of copies of it, one of which is in perfect condition. The poster holds so much esteem with me that I've created my own version of it, although it pales in comparison to this classic.