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.

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Wallpaper of the Week: Kurt Vonnegut, or Slaughterhouse-4scrape

August 1, 2009

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FROM JASON’S IMMEASURABLE GRIEF — It’s true. That fool’s paradise of visual filth, flamboyance, and foolery known as 4scrape is no more. It’s just another 404 now.

So it goes.

When it comes to image boards, as we’ve said before, 4scrape was the best way to scan for new desktop art. It not only cut out everything but the wallpapers themselves, but it also reduced the need to click through hundreds of links and page loads.

On July 27, the creator’s blog said the site is down and he/she won’t cast rez on it. The source code and SQL were posted, though, so the entire engine is open to the public for any willing to continue the good fight. There might even be a torrent release of the 150GB of image data cached by 4scrape (though that kind of a download is impractical at best and retarded at worst).

It didn’t take Ice-9, a prison riot, a Martian invasion force, a timequake, or nuclear holocaust to bring down 4scrape. Apparently, there were too many problems with the code to put more blood, sweat, and tears into it:

  • Cache for searches (potentially just post searches) is broken.
  • Threads need to be cached as a whole unit — assembling them from a 500,000-row table is too slow.
  • General consistency errors — there’s a bunch of images missing (???)
  • The scraper likes to shit itself to keep things lively.
  • The backend would occasionally crash/spinlock (???)
  • The JavaScript shit is a horrible mess.

So it goes.

Right before the site folded, I had been searching almost in vain for Kurt Vonnegut wallpapers to share. The top-most one was easy to find; but when I went looking for others — well, that’s when the 404 struck.

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The subsequent announcement that the site will be abandoned put me in a particularly grouchy and very Vonnegut-story-defeatest mood. I stomped around a bit, and then figured the universe will manage to realign this mistake somehow.

Truth is, even with 4scrape’s help, Vonnegut ‘papers are awfully rare. I turned to customized Google Images searches. They turned up very little. The best I could find, aside from a few badly-patched-together and quite ugly photo mosaics were oversized scans of some of book book illustrations and one fairly large but grainly photo that didn’t make Kurt’s face look like a catcher’s mit.

Some Photoshop filters, sharpening, and color-tweaking later and here are some (moderately) presentable pieces of Vonnegut-icana to ease us all through the rough patches.

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As always, I’ve put the images in 1024×768 — which despite some protests is still the most widely used m0nitor resolution (and 4:3 is still the most widespread aspect ratio). Enjoy.


Wallpaper of the Week: A-10 Warthog

July 4, 2009

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FROM JASON’S WALLPAPER FOLDER — Like a lot of boys, I spent a lot of hours as a teen building model planes, and even had an early aspiration to fly for the Air Force. Most kits were Strike Eagles or Migs or the like — anything you could see in the movies.

But sleek and sexy as those were, a different type of aircraft always appealed to me more: the chunky, decidedly awkward A-10 Warthog. I don’t know why; maybe it’s because it’s shaped like me, slim in the wrong places and with too much weight in unattractive places. (There’s a body image crisis for you.)

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Or maybe it’s that the Warthog is packed with frightening power. It’s an anti-tank, anti-personnel plane that flies in low over combat operations and blasts a path clear for advancing ground forces. If I were the Taliban and I heard the grumble of an approaching Warthog, I’d crap myself and run. Maybe not even in that order.

The Warthog’s almost a flying tank. It can take direct hits with armor-piercing rounds. It can survive explosive bullets. It can fly with one engine and only one and a half wings. Fuel tank gets hit? No problem — the Warthog’s got auto-sealing systems that button up the holes. The whole cockpit is wrapped in titanium armor. It’s 30mm Gatling gun fires off 2,100-4,200 depleted Uranium shells per minute. And when rounds won’t do, the Warthog’s packed with air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs.

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I’ve long since given up any desire to be part of the military, and my feelings on even being in Afghanistan right now are mixed. I’m long past that Top Gun-fueled phase every young guy hits where we romanticize armed aircraft. But if you have to rain down death and destruction from 1,000 feet up, and you don’t mind an entirely functional, non-aesthetic means of delivering said bloody interdiction, then I’m glad the Warthog’s on our side.

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And yes, Andrew, that third wallpaper is taken from ArmA. Stop jumping up and down in your seat. I know you like ArmA. And I know ArmA2 is out. I hope you’re enjoying it.


Wallpaper of the Week: Futurama

June 22, 2009

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FROM JASON’S WALLPAPER FOLDER — I was going to write about how Comedy Central’s ordered 26 more episodes of Futurama to start airing sometime next year. And I was going write about how Vanity’s reporting that Fox, which canceled the show in 2003 after four seasons, still has the option for first-run rights on broadcast television.

But you already know all that, unless you’ve been incapacitated for the past week by coma, bear attack, or alien abduction, and the aliens’ Internet was broken.

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But instead I’m just going to linger for a second on what makes Futurama so damn good — it’s all about abject failure, and that’s something all of us greasy-faced nerds can relate to.

There’s not a redeemable character in the whole cast. They are stupid, conniving, fragile, egocentric, criminal, arrogant, ignorant, velour-wearing, stubborn, feeble-minded, and cowardly. They say the wrong things at the wrong time. They make big mistakes and escape the consequences only by blind luck. By all rights, every single character should be condemned for eternity to robot hell. And we love them because they are just like us.

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More importantly: Futurama is helping me lose weight. The wife has recently put me on a treadmill regimen to help me shed some of the pounds with which marriage has cursed me. To make sure I walk/jog/kind of run in a shambling way long enough, I’ve got the infernal machine set up in front of my basement TV and I exercise through an entire Futurama episode every morning. I’m already about half-way through season one.

Three pounds down, 47 to go. I wish the professor would invent a Fat-Suck-O-Scope.

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And I wish somebody would get to work inventing some decent Futurama wallpapers. I spent about three hours looking for ones that didn’t look A) like they were hand-drawn with crayon, 2) busier than Britney Spears, or ♣) like cut-and-paste jobs by a mental patient using MS Paint for the first time.

Unfortunately, the best ones I found were entirely Bender-less. Enjoy what little fare there is.


Wallpaper of the Week: Batman

June 19, 2009

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FROM JASON’S WALLPAPER FOLDER — There used to be Hercules, Arthur, Marduk, Beowulf, Conn of the Hundred Battles, Odin, Samson, Huangdi, Odysseus, and all the other heroes of ancient legend.

When you think about it, Batman is cut from the same literary cloth. Comic book characters are just modern mythological warrior-heroes. It’s enough to make you wonder whether Zeus was just a very popular-selling title of the time.

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And why does the Dark Knight resonate so well with us? Probably because he embodies good intentions clothed in lawlessness. Batman is an ends-justifies-the-means personification. He’s the animated Jack Bauer, carrying out swift street justice using the tools of evil — fear and pain and malice. He’s a natural (and as a vigilante, wrong) reaction to our overburdened, over-bureaucratized system.

So, because his goals are so honorable, we find ourselves rooting for Batman’s antisocial behavior, ignoring how illicit are his activities, how every criminal he captures would be released due to lack of proper arrest and Mirandizing, and how he quite possibly has split personalities or other forms of schizophrenia. We even justify his actions as moral instead of reclusively egoistic and dangerous.

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But that’s television for you.

It was that medium that lured me to Batman in 1992, with Batman: The Animated Series‘ “dark deco” styling and gritty storytelling. Here was a cartoon with noir pacing, relying more on the Bat’s detective skills and character development than explosions (though those were to be found as well).

Warner Bros. let Bruce Timm make a mature, sophisticated take on what superficially could be described as another “underwear” superhero; part of that came from elaborate and often sympathetic retellings of classic villains’ backstories. There were the go-to baddies, sure: Catwoman, Penguin, Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler. But some of the best episodes of TAS focused on obscure ones such as the Clock King, Killer Croc, the Ventriloquist, HARDAC, Hugo Strange, Red Claw, and the Sewer King.

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And some of the most interesting twists came when the right question was posed: Was Batman really that different from the criminals he fought? Motive counts for a lot, true, but means and method are also very important. There’s also the Frank Miller alternative to  consider: Could Batman actually be insane?

While we’re thinking about Batman and comparative ethics, have some fun with these wallpapers, conveniently sized to 1024×768.


Wallpaper of the Week: More Left 4 Dead

June 9, 2009

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FROM JASON’S DESKTOP — Saying no to progress just doesn’t make sense.

So I don’t really understand the pathetic whinging some players are doing this week after the announcement that Left 4 Dead 2 will hit Steam this November. Some idiots who take themselves far too seriously are even trying to push a boycott of the new game, and have written a “manifesto” touting their lame opposition.

It’s laughable. And it’s not logical. For some reason, they thought Valve — a for-profit company — was going to endlessly give away free downloadable content, expanding the L4D universe for nary a nickel.

Well, in a way, they already have. They gave us survival mode and new versus maps in May, and released the Source SDK for the game. What more could you ask for? Already, a modding and mapping community has sprung up, offering enormous and rather professional campaigns that are easy to install and use.

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The most complete, atmospheric fan-made maps I’ve found so far are Death Aboard (the shipyard is a lot of fun with a sniper rifle) and Dead City (the drawbridge, especially).

Given the short time since the SDK release, these campaigns are almost finished and still a little rough around the edges, but they tend to be A) larger than the official levels, B) just as inventive, and C) filled with far, far more zombies to blast into motionless corpses.

I’m also rearing to see the completed Death Knell, which is so far spooky as hell, and Brain 4 Dead, which has far more open space and novelty settings than some of its contemporaries.

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Sure, these DYI projects have their little failings; they tend to be a little too claustrophobic and maze-centered, with not much in the way of alternate routes. Sometimes they put ledges or jumps at just the wrong distances, causing undue frustration during horde-rushes. The designers can also can be obsessed with setting up dubiously convenient sniper posts and safe-platforms, which can take some of the fun out of the hunt.

But not much.

I don’t care. As much fun as the SDK-made campaigns are, I’m ready for L4D2: Electric Boogaloo, which supposedly sports chainsaws, frying pans,  axes, and incendiary ammo. It’s all about the add-ons, the new mechanics that will add a whole new gameplay depth (not to mention replayability).

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There are, as you no doubt have already read from E3 coverage, three more special infected planned, with one already revealed as the Charger, a sort of mini-tank. The regular infected are getting a little heartier this time around, and some are even clad in Haz-Mat suits to resist your molotovs.

So I’m excited, not only for what’s available right now, but what’s coming. And those L4D2-haters can get the bird. That’s why I went scrounging for some more L4D wallpapers to share this week. Enjoy.


Wallpaper of the Week: Jacek Yerka

May 22, 2009

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FROM JASON’S DESKTOP — Ferocious, living alligator-mobiles. Villages carved from hulking strawberries, onions, and loaves of bread. A steam locomotive roaring from the maw of a cavernous dragon’s head.

This is the mind of Polish fantasy artist Jacek Yerka.

Yerka’s canvases are places where physics doesn’t give a damn about enforcing its own rules, where the mundane and the unlikely collide in a matter-of-fact way. Often, the paintings show two worlds living on top of each other — one recognizable and the other entirely alien.

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The result is that you start to doubt your grasp on the known; another land could be lurking a few yards under my feet, filled with goblins, unearthly cities, strange dreamscapes, and peril.

It’s a nice thought to foster in this work-a-day world.

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Yerka, now 57, bucked his college art instructors, who wanted his style to fall more in the camp of loose and unstructured modernism. Instead, he insisted on elevating his neo-Dali-ism with exacting detail in the classical northern European tradition.

The pieces are better for it. The composition gives incredible depth to each world he creates, while hinting that there’s even more lurking below the surface. He shows me so much that it causes me to imagine even more — which is what good art should do.