Wallpaper Bonanza: Batman the Animated Series Season 1

May 2, 2010

It’s been months and months since anything’s been posted on the ol’ blag, but in the interim I’ve purchased the first installment of what is perhaps the best American cartoon of all time: Batman the Animated Series (season 1).

There was no such thing in 1992 as HDTV, so the quality was low. Televisions in most households back then didn’t get much above 27 inches. The playback on my LCD here was pretty low-fidelity, so image captures looked bad. Really bad. I had to Photoshop a water painting filter over them to make them look halfway decent, even in 1024×768.

Enjoy.


Review: Where the Wild Things Are

October 18, 2009

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FROM JASON’S MOVIE TICKET – I don’t want to be this guy, but I have to say it: The movie wasn’t really much like the book.

I mean, how could it be? The hard-copy version of Where the Wild Things Are is a whopping 10 sentences long. Let’s be honest: Author Maurice Sendak spoke more to us in pictures than words. But where the 1963 short children’s tale shows a young boy reveling in his imagination to “master his feelings,” the 2009 Spike Jonze adaptation is a ponderous ode to broken homes, loneliness, and the suburban blues. There’s no joyful escapism here — even the monsters have traded in their pure rumpus ways and toothy grins for emotional demons.

There are no answers, either. The troubling realities of Max’s anger and frustration, his fractured relationship with his sister, and his mother’s looming unemployment are all still waiting for him, no matter what personal discoveries he’s made by the end of Jonze’s retelling. We see our young Max wrestle to come to terms with his “growth, survival, change, and fury,” as Sendak puts it. But Jonze has no solution, no happy ending except for warm soup waiting at the dinner table.

This is heavy stuff — too heavy for the children who were packed into the theater when I saw the matinee Sunday. It was the first PG film I’ve seen in a while, and that rating didn’t help send signals to Grandma and Grandpa Midwestern America that this was no Pixar song-and-joke gig. The four- and five-year-olds expected My Pet Monster, not Being John Malkovich.

Misplaced marketing doesn’t mean the film was a failure. It just wasn’t the bedtime story we thought it was, full of color and comfort and joy.

Don’t let me sound like the flick’s a waste. It shines in many departments, not the least of which is the setting. Timing is just as important as location — and 90 percent of Where the Wild Things Are seems to take place in those waning moments during the last sun-drenched minutes of the day and dusk, just when the sun is losing its life. That’s when my imagination was always strongest as a boy, after all.

It’s clear that Jonze is attuned to that primal way kids think. He just gets childhood, or at least the kind I had — the version experienced by an outcast trying to understand the very adult situations all around him, and struggling to analyze context with no experience.

Let’s not overlook the acting. Eleven-year-old Max Records seemed like he’s had 20 years of acting experience and was able to show us a depth I didn’t expect from a child actor. James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, and the criminally-underrated Chris Cooper were so convincing as Wild Things that I forgot they were celebrities and simply accepted them as characters.

And then there’s the costuming. While it’s obvious the Wild Things are people in suits, what is dazzling is the range of emotions that the Jim Henson wizards manage to get from their faces (there is some CG overlay, too, but it all looks completely lifelike). They might as well be real creatures, raised in the East Village and coached by Shakespearean actors.

The dream-like soundtrack is what tied everything together, though. Without it, I might have tuned out early.

A couple of quick notes: To date, Where the Wild Things Are is ranked at 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.5/10 on IMDB. It also grossed $32.5 million in the opening weekend, in part due to the two $4 tickets I purchased.

To close, let me just address the “debate” about whether the island of the monsters is real. In Sendak’s book, the forest grew out of Max’s imagination. In the movie, though, Max runs away. We never see him bump his head. There is a seamless transition through the nightmare city streets and backyards to the sailboat that carries Max away. We see him leave and return with no obvious trauma. I choose to think it’s real, in much the same way I choose to think Douglas Quaid really went to Mars.

That is all.


Wallpaper of the Week: Wolverine vs. Hulk

October 8, 2009

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FROM JASON’S DESKTOP – Well, that was a nice break.

I didn’t mean to take off the entire month of September. Sorry ’bout that. It’s not my fault — the siren lure of Netflix¬† is entirely to blame. I joined up in late July and, well, you’ve seen the posts slip.

There was also a slight obsession with Team Fortress 2. Expect another absence in November when Left 4 Dead 2 drops.

Netflix, though, has allowed me to catch up on a backlog of movies that I had wanted to see. Because I have been working nights, getting to the video rental store wasn’t an option. With streaming movies and delivery to my mailbox, that’s no longer a problem.

A few weeks ago, the mail brought me Hulk Vs., a double-feature released in January by Marvel. One flick shows Wolverine taking on Hulk while his old Department K enemies interfere. The other story on the disc has Loki possessing the Hulk in a plot to overthrow Asgard during the Odinsleep.

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The animation of neither is stellar; however, the action is something of a fanboy wet dream. The Wolverine tale is a throwback to the characters’ first run-in back in 1974 and features Lady Deathstrike, Deadpool (whose dialog was spot-on), Sabretooth, and Omega Red. Thor’s story is full of rainbows (oh, I hate the Asgard designs), and features the Enchantress, Sif, and even a trip to the underworld to visit Hela.

I was surprised to see a 7.1 rating for Hulk Vs. on IMDB. Personally, it was a guilty pleasure — a callback to my infantile love for the old Hulk television show. I would have rated the double-feature at about five out of 10. Maybe the Marvel fanboys have skewed the data. But I’d say that if you enjoyed some other direct-to-video comic adapatations (Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man, Dr. Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme), then you’ll probably get a kick out of this one, too.

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Now, it took me a while to find some decent Hulk vs. Wolverine wallpapers, so enjoy these ones, aight? As always, click the thumbnail to enbiggen.

Part of the problem getting higher-quality desktops involved the demise of a certain chan aggregator — you might remember I was a fan — called 4scrape (RIP). Since it went belly-up, some brilliant netizens have delved into the source code and compiled their own 4scrape clones. The one I’ve latched onto is 4walled, which does the job pretty well despite some load time and formatting issues.


County fair culture — part two

August 29, 2009

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Dear friends in England:

As previously promised, I have done more documentation on the woodsy American hayseed-fests known collectively as “county fairs” in an attempt to share genuine New World “culture” with our overseas cousins.

This is an undercover operation in which I indulge every year, walking among the native cornfed clodhoppers of the rustic Midwest. There is a dual purpose: For me, to gorge on deep-fried Wisconsin cheese curds, sausages, and frozen bananas. For my hot wife (above), to pet various mammals of the “cute” variety (ponies, pygmy goats, the odd unsuspecting floppy-eared bunny rabbit).

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The key is to use tremendous quantities of sanitary antibacterial lotion so as not to contract some nasty bumpkin disease like salmonella, E. coli, or typhoid fever. Also, to avoid stepping in steaming hot pavement pies, if you know what I mean. The shit is everywhere. I worry that I breathe in an awful lot of latent particulate that’s just floating around in the air. It gets there when the farmers clean their animals like so:

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By the way, don’t become to attached to ol’ Bessy up there. She was being washed outside the fair auction house Saturday afternoon just before she was led inside to be sold by the quarter to the highest bidder. I’m sure she’ll make some tasty steak or rump roast.

This beauty, however, is sure to make some excellent pie. Or 40 pies. Whatever. It is the prize-winner for Largest Pumpkin at 434 pounds (197 kg). The girl only weighs 60 kg.

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I didn’t really touch on judging in my former post re county fairs. One of the main components of said yokel affairs is the submission of and professional evaluation of best local-grown fruit and vegetable specimens, animals, pies and other baked goods, paintings and drawings, photography, flower arrangements, pencil collections, LEGO creations, canned jams, your mom, hand-made furniture, bee hives, milk samples….

Yes, there are blue ribbons. I even spotted an elaborate and disproportionately grandiose trophy — three and a half feet tall and gold-embossed — for the Best In Show winner of the Sweet Corn category. Here are some award-winning cabbages and onions:

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What is a little more difficult to capture on film (lol, nobody uses film anymore) is the size of the whole occasion. Imagine 100,000 people over the course of six days milling around a mile-long loop crammed with food vendors, toothless carnies, salesmen hawking everything from gutters to leathercrafts to new cars, tractors of all sizes on display, barns full of the aforementioned poopmongers, cheap portable ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls and funhouses, political parties, charities, a bloodmobile, and a stadium blaring with the sounds of either A) despicable country music or B) the roar of suped-up engines.

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On the sixth day, the grounds are littered with the mashed remnants of french fries, stale vomit, copious pig urine, drunk carnies, toilet paper, lost flip-flops, tears, and the tracts of both office-seekers and quack religious cults (that last one was all kinds of redundant. Sorry). Alone on a park bench, Funny-O the Clown is crying; the last of the animals are being led off to the slaughterhouse while the 12-year-old homesteader girls who raised them weep; and the clean-up crews have lost all hope and turned sullen.

But little girls like this one are still having a blast:

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Yes, my wife called me a pedophile for snapping that last photo.

There might be a couple more pics coming if she decides we need to head back to the fairgrounds tonight for one last frenzied romp to see the animals and take one last shot at further clogging our already grease-engorged guts.


I am Jason: Slayer of Countertops

August 16, 2009

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It’s not often I get to use the reciprocating saw. But there is a big empty space now where the kitchen counters used to be. They will be replaced this week, after which I will experiment with kitchen sink-installing. I am not proficient in the plumbing, so that will be an adventure.


My Ugly Games #1: Ugly Orbs

August 9, 2009

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FROM JASON’S COMPETITIVE NATURE – It’s not that I hate Andrew, or want to crush him with my gauntlet of justice, or desire to tread over the dusty remains of his bones.

It’s just that when I saw his most recent post — the first in seven months — about his Lovely Games experiments with Lua and Love2D, all that nostalgia about using ClickTeam’s software came rushing back.

Here’s Ugly Orbs, the sworn arch-enemy of Lovely Squares. Maybe more will come. Who knows? I have some old games sitting around that have been complete or half-complete for four or five years. Boy, those were fun.

See, while Andrew’s been learning fancy-schmansy methods of “programming” and “coding” and “scripting,” I laid out some big bucks a few years back for The Games Factory and later MultiMedia Fusion. These object-oriented engines are very good at helping you slap together working applications using a WYSIWYG interface, an intuitive event editor to tell your game pieces how to act, and a graphics editor that’s fairly full-featured (I still use Photoshop for most sprite editing, though).

So the game that Andrew spent 10 hours on last week took me about four with the help of the right software. And I’m a retard, barely able to navigate Linux, write HTML, or edit a config.sys file. So if I can emulate his skills, you know ClickTeam’s stuff is powerful magic.

By the way, most of the sprites I used came from a Sinistar clone. They were released into the public domain by the author over at Lost Garden. It’s very possible that (if I can rouse the energy and willpower) I might do a shooter using the same graphics.


Dear England: This is our “culture” (*shudder*)

August 8, 2009

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Dear friends in England:

You have had many questions about the redneck American carnivals known as county fairs. These are not — I repeat not – like Scarborough Fair. I’ve tried explaining to some of you what we here in the States consider “culture,” and you’ve reacted with all the appropriate disgust. But more than not you’ve reacted with dumbfounded disbelief that such a thing could exist.

Let me try to give you the run-down, so you can understand our yokel ways.

County fairs are a uniquely Midwestern institution wherein city folk travel to small towns and brave the overpowering smell of feces to watch bumpkins in bib overalls show off prize farm animals. Fairs are typically divided into five distinct areas: First, there are the animal barns, where after petting said cute beasts the highest bidders are able to purchase them for slaughter.

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My wife was particularly fond of this litter of piglets, and was worried for the runt of the litter, which she was afraid was not receiving enough of its mother’s milk. Lisa also was overheard remarking, “Wow, look at the size of that horse wiener,” on more than one occasion. She made me traipse twice through a petting zoo where we fed carrot sticks to deer, red kangaroos, pygmy goats, a water buffalo, and a bearded pig.

The second area of a county fair holds the carnival rides and booths, which are typically dangerous, nauseating, and staffed by toothless vagrants. We don’t frequent these. At all. Ugh. Dirty.

Our primary goal when visiting the fair is to run rampant through the third area: The food booths. Imagine a magical street where any food you can imagine can be deep fried and coated with magical sugar for outlandish prices. We’re talking deep-fried vegetables, deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried rice, donuts, french fries, deep-fried cheese on a stick, deep-fried cheesecake, corndogs, funnel cakes (deep-fried dough), elephant ears (more deep-fried dough), deep-fried steak on a stick, deep-fried chicken in a pita,deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried potato chips….

This is me eating a deep-fried Milky Way bar, which was like a sickeningly sweet fudge pastry and made me want to simultaneously vomit and run in circles for an hour.

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The fourth area are open-air barns that serve two purposes: A) to show off artistic works being judged, and B) for local vendors to hawk their crap — everything from massages to tires to political ideals to cutlery.

The fifth and final area is the stadium, where there are not only musical acts (mostly country music bull) but also big attractions such as horse races, demolition derbies, and tractor pulls. The later, dear Brits, are very loud demonstrations of horsepower where over-beefed engines are forced to strain through mud whilst dragging weights.

Summer is fair season, and in the backwoods towns of Ohio each county holds its own. If our arteries can withstand the increased oil instake, we’ll be hitting up at least one more fair this summer — with pictures to follow. I’ll try to give you more hillbillyisms ASAP.


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