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     Friday August 27, 2004
Life has been...well, uneventful.

I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and have started The DaVinci Code (I don't mean to imply that it was an onerous chore to finish Harry Potter--it was just a very long book). Here is a site I stumbled across with some nice sketches of characters from the Harry Potter stories.

Keli learned how to ride her bike sans training wheels last week. I finally picked up a new bike, but haven't taken it on any rides of significance yet.

I discovered that the piles of cash I threw at my VW to get the engine light to turn off (at Midas) may have been covered by a warranty if I had taken the car to the dealer.

I have made a few modifications to the site. The image viewer, as of a month or more ago, that opens when you click most of the image links within the site, will now scale the image to fit without distorting the image when the viewer window is resized. And the image will not stretch beyond its actual size. That was something that had been annoying me for some time.
The Badbartopia Instant Messenger is ready to go. I have not and may never allow automatic BIM account creation (username/password) because I don't want Badbartopia to turn into lurker central. But, if you want to try it out, send me an email and I will set you up.
I have added at least 2 new drawings to the Downloads section and a few snapshots of my girls from our summer vacation (and Keli's first day riding her bike) to the Princess Gallery. All the site's pages have been modified to fade in and out as you move around within the site. I stole this idea from The Tolkien Society web page. I also cleaned up the pages in the "My Interests" section so that they would scroll without losing the header sections and would be more viewable at resolutions lower that 1024x768. There are always other little tweaks here and there, but those were the main changes.

The San Diego housing market remains as grim as ever. We have expanded our search to townhouses and condos, but even those are in the low $400K range for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath. It's crazy!

There's not much else worth mentioning.

Whew, what an exciting life I lead. To quote Marvin the paranoid android..."Life! Don't talk to me about life."

Berke breathed has been kind of hit and miss with Opus. I have really liked some of his strips, but others have left me wanting. There is still some of the charm of Bloom County in the strip, but it's a little flat. As I have mentioned before, the Pickles character brings some life to the strip, so here is a scan of her latest exploits in the August 15 strip. I guess the search engines aren't finding me or Berke has called off the hounds because there have been no threatening letters about Opus' presence on Badbartopia.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I have become a huge JK Rowling/Harry Potter fan. I think I'm going to have to find a support group--I avoided picking these novels up in the first place because I thought they sounded too "childish" and even "juvenile." And now I can't get enough. Unfortunately, as I completed this year in the life and education of Harry Potter, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. There is not another Harry Potter book waiting for me to dive into. His sixth year at Hogwarts exists only in the fecund imagination of JK Rowling (and is, at this time, entitled Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince).

This novel, much like the previous outing, was even more frightening and "dark" than it predeccesors. Harry is often brooding and unhappy. He generally feels alone and isolated even when surrounded by friends. Voldemort is back and potentially lurking ever out of sight. Death is again a major component of the story (the thestrals are kind of creepy).

It's great to see that Harry is being allowed to grow and mature in the novels as an actual teenage boy would. One thing I noticed at some point as I made my way through this voluminous tome: the bad guys in these novels aren't really given equal character building time (other than Voldemort when he was still just Tom Riddle and Harry experienced his memories through his journal). Their thoughts, ambitions and plans are only laid out through the explanations of others. I'm not saying that this is a flaw in the novels. It's just an observation.

I would summarize the story for you, but then what reason would you have to go out and buy the book and read it for yourself? This isn't "Spoilers-R-Us," so rest assured with the knowledge that I thoroughly enjoyed the story and reccomend it to any and all.

The Land of SokMunster
I breifly mentioned this book in the San Diego ComicCon 2004 update last month, but I didn't give it the full review it richly deserves.

Against my beter judgement, I'm going to summarize the story: a young boy, Sam, undertakes an adventure to a magical land called Sokmunster (where all the discarded socks and missing keys, money, toys, etc. end up) to prove to his dad that he is responsible. That's all the detail that I'm going to share. If you want more, read it.

The story is told by Sam from notes he took in his own notebook (the pages of the book appear to be on lined notebook paper) in a "show and tell" presentation he gives to his class. Sam has even added notes about "his" sketches of the events. The art is unrefined and amazing. I don't mean to say that the art is unsatisfactory in any way by labeling it "unrefined." Mike just doesn't attempt to hide the underlying drawing techniques he employs or try to over-gloss his art and make it flat and lifeless.

I have been reading this book to my daughters before putting them to bed and they love it. It's one of the highlights of their day. Sockmunster is quickly becoming a household word. So, if you can find it, go pick up a copy for yourself or your kids. You will love it.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding
The age and gender of the audience in the theater was a warning of what was to come before the movie even started. I saw a few other fathers their with daughters, but there was a definite lacking of testosterone in the viewing audience. Not that I stronly suspected otherwise prior to seeing this movie with my wife and 2 young daughters. In my male-biased opinion, the stunning and charming Anne Hathaway is the only thing that makes these films bearable. She is defnitely gorgeous and portrays sincerity. If you put a Hillary Duff or one of her clones in the role, it would be...well, it would be A Cinderella Strory. Pure drek. Also worth mentioning, Anne Hathaway's character has two ladies' maids that do a good comedic turn. One of them, Brigitte (played by Shea Currey) is a real cutie.

I suspect this may be Anne Hathaway's final Princess Diary movie for Disney, judging by Parade Magazine's revelation that Anne "wants is to shed her sugary image" and in her next film "gets naked with guys."

Napolean Dynamite
Once again, the audience in the theater was a good barometer of the movie I was about to see. I was surrounded on every side by teenagers (mostly male) who were acting in the usual obnoxious, boisterous manner of teenagers everywhere.

This movie was set in, of all places, Preston Idaho. For most of you, "Preston, Idaho" may not mean anything. But as a former resident of the southeast corner of the great, state of Idaho, I am well acquainted with Preston. Someone who has not, at some time in their life, suffered through life in a nearly unpopulated town in the middle of nowhere may have a hard time believing the reality of the characters, locations and situations in a movie like Napolean Dynamite.

But let me be the first to assure you: this movie exaggerates almost nothing (other than the weirdness of Napolean, but there are always a few guys like that anywhere you go). The single no-name fastfood place in town, the hardware/clothing/grocery store, the hair styles and clothing from 20 years in the's all there. If you still have a hard time believing, I invite you to my parent's "retirement villa" in Bloomington, Idaho (population of about 150, I think).

To give you an idea of the staying power this movie has, the high school kids sitting behind me were quoting the lines from the movie before the dialogue took place. I'm guessing that those guys had seen the movie at least twice before. This could be the next midnight movie/cult classic. To heap even more praise on the movie, the actor who played Lazlo in Real Genius plays Napolean's bum uncle.

I guess I could tell you exactly what happens in the movie, but then why would you want to go see it?

Take note Kevin Costner: this is what a cowboy is supposed to be.

Viggo went from Aragorn to a tough yet gentle (unless given a reason not to be), honest and gentlemanly cowboy. This movie has elements of The Last Samurai--a war hero witnesses the unforgiveable slaughter of defeseless indians and is forever haunted by the images so he seeks solace in the bottom of a bottle. But the similarities stop there.

There aren't really any great fighting/action scenes, aren't really any special effect worth mentioning (the sandstorm looked pretty cool, but it's been done--see The Mummy), but Viggo's character is so common yet admirable and such a "good guy" that he keeps you watching and rooting for him and his, also common, mustang (for whom the movie is named). Jazira (played by Zuleikha Robinson), gave the movie some sexual tension as the arab hottie after Viggo and Omar Sharif was a convincing arab sheik.

As for the DVD extras, I didn't get around to seeing them before the DVD had to be returned, but they didn't appear to be anything especially noteworthy.

Chasing Liberty
Mandy moore is, for some reason, one of my wife's favorite acresses. So we had to pick this video up when she saw it at the rental place. This is, as expected, a chick flick. Full of romance, girlish adventure, parties and clothes, love, etc. Mark Harmon plays the president of the U.S. and Jeremy Piven is a secret service agent who is tasked with keeping the president's daughter, Anna (played by Mandy Moore), out of trouble. He had some funny lines. Another secret service agent (who is somehow English) is given the secret assignment of watching Mandy Moore and allowing her to believe that she has been given freedom to frolic through Europe. Of course, she finds out in the end, after falling in love with him, (hey, I said this was a chick flick) that she was being kept "safe" teh whole time. The agent, played by Matthew Goode, seems to me to be an ideal candidate for a future James Bond.

Mandy Moore strips down to nothing (all the naughty bits are kept carefully off camera) twice in this movie. It appears that Mandy is also trying to "shed the sugary roles." And another thing: I thought that she was looking a lot like a younger Diane Lane in this movie. I'm not even sure why I noticed this. It's kind of frightening, actually.

The secret service guys use "Liberty" as their codeword to identify Mandy Moore's character. Thus the title. I actually watched the DVD extras for this one. The Outtakes were pretty funny (Jeremy Priven's, especially). I also listened to Mandy Moore drone on and on about what she liked about each of the European locations they shot in. the other extras didn't even seem to be worth looking into.

Out of Time
Denzel Washington is one of those actors that exudes charisma and confidence. His role in this movie is the "good" guy, but it's hard to really like his character. This is one of those movies that I don't mind revelaing the basic plot...

Denzel plays a philandering chief-of-police that does the wrong thing for the right reason and gets caught when he discovers his trust has been given to the wrong person. So he makes mistake after mistake, leaving his poor wife, played by Eva Mendez, in the dark about his transgressions, until the end of the movie, when they all live happily ever after when she decides not to divorce her lying, cheating husband since he's such a good guy, after all. Sanaa Lathan plays the "other woman" and Dean Cain plays the creepy abusive husband. Every time I see Dean Cain now, I'm reminded of Scott Peterson. Man, talk about being typecast. From Superman to a wife-killer, just like that.

The movie is, unfortunately, entertaining. And well worth the $1.00 rental fee. the extras include outtakes and deleted scenes, so should be worth a look.

© Brett Wilkes. All Rights Reserved.
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© Brett Wilkes. All Rights Reserved.
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