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.

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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.


Wallpapers of the Week: Ralph McQuarrie ‘Star Wars’ concept art

January 30, 2009

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FROM JASON’S DESKTOP — My father took me when I was four to see Return of the Jedi at the drive-in. It was the first film I ever saw on the big screen; from that moment on, I was a Star Wars acolyte.

No joke. I would line up my stuffed animals on my bed and they would help me pilot the Millenium Falcon through the Death Star’s infrastructure. In my mind, epic battles were waged against storm trooper legions. A long, cardboard giftwrap tupe became my lightsaber.

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Those imaginary campaigns stopped long ago, but my fascination with Star Wars backstory and its greater universe never faded. When I was about 11, I discovered a large picture book filled with artistic renderings that looked almost — but not quite — like Star Wars. There were hairy monsters that looked almost like Wookies, and a hulking figure in black that looked more like a robot ninja than Darth Vader.

These were the drawings of Ralph McQuarrie, commissioned to envision the worlds and characters and atmosphere from Geoge Lucas’ mind before they could be transported to film.

There’s something incredibly attractive about that process, watching idealized pulp imaginings change as prop, costume, and set designers wrestle to make them solid and practicable.

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So I was very excited the other day when I came on a cache of these McQuarrie pieces in a larger format. I quickly resized them, tinkered with the contrast and brightness ratios to offset some fading and dullness, and ran them through a quick crosshatch filter to make the lines a little bolder and modern.

The results make, I think, for some great desktop wallpapers for Star Wars geeks like me. Enjoy. Click any of the images for a 1024×768 version.

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Wallpaper of the Week: Left 4 Dead

January 9, 2009

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FROM JASON’S WALLPAPER FOLDER — I picked up Left 4 Dead with some Christmas cash and have been playing it a couple hours a day ever since. It’s incredibly smooth, and the game mechanics are based more around ease of play than depth of play.

That doesn’t mean it’s a cheap game — each of the campaigns offers many ways to slay the zombie hordes, and incorporates enough strategery to make Sun Tzu proud. There are height advantages, bottlenecks, use of flame and environment, and defense towers.

If you hook up online with a squad familiar with tactics, or with any knowledge of SWAT or military procedures (like clearing rooms before moving on, or how to tag-team corners from different angles to make sure a new room’s covered), then it makes slicing through the waves of undead even more fun.

That’s why I like the game so much, I think. Jack-asses who rush ahead like they’re still playing Doom II, leaving the rest of the group behind in the process, always fail. One man might get lucky and win a round on his own once in a while, but mostly the campaigns are designed to absolutely require at least three survivors to cooperate.

It’s a mechanic that makes Left 4 Dead about playing smarter, not stronger.

For example, you could go into a room with four windows and put a man in each, hoping to hold back the zombie legions as they stream in. Or you could put two men in a closet at the top of some stairs and two men in a corner in back of the stairs and bullet-grind the horde as it lurches up single-file.

Which do you think is going to work better?

My favorite ploy is to get in two ranks at the back of a dead end, then explode containers of gasoline in the mouth as the zombies pour through. If you do it right, you’ll barely waste any ammo at all while the bodies burn.

This is the most excited I’ve been about a third-person shooter in a long while, so I went hunting for wallpapers to celebrate.

Most of the Left 4 Dead walls out there so far are pretty corporate, so when I stumbled on this slightly off-cannon rendering of the protagonists, I just had to have it on my desktop.

Click the thumbnail up top or here to get the 1024×768 image.


More movie press photos saved from the trash bin

January 8, 2008

FROM THE DUMPSTER OUTSIDE JASON’S WINDOW — A while ago I posted some Star Trek (mostly from the fourth movie — Star Trek: The One With the Whales) press photos. They had been saved from a general purging of the newspaper office where I work, which is undergoing a renovation and cleaning for the first time in a couple of decades.

Rather than have some of these precious geek culture relics go in the dumpster, I slipped them in my briefcase. Again, click to enbiggen:

Star Wars: Episode VI: Revenge Return of the Jedi (1983)

ewok.jpgYou know, we saw a lot of the forest moon of Endor, but never Endor itself. Maybe there were some cool creatures on the planet proper; instead, we were saddled with primitive teddy bears in the final installment of the original Star Wars saga (The Luke Skywalker Trilogy).By all accounts, the costume designers were frustrated. The Ewoks were made of five pieces that had to be stitched on to the little people (under 4-feet, 6-inches — George Lucas wasn’t an equal opportunity employer on this one). The heads were sculpted, and the various tidbits of hoods and other clothing were designed to cover the seams.

For all the rambling I’ve done on this blag recently about Star Trek, I just want to go on record as saying Star Wars is definitely superior — despite the cuddly forest warriors from Return of the Jedi and Jake Lloyd.

The Fugitive (1993)

fugitive.jpgRun, Harrison, run! With roles as Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard, and Jack Ryan, Harrison Ford easily goes down in the geek cannon as perhaps the geek hero. The Fugitive was far from my favorite movie, but there’s no denying that Ford’s acting was head and shoulders above his performance in Jedi.

Of course, for my money, it’s all about Indiana Jones. Too bad I didn’t stumble across any old black and white glossies of Ford in the fedora.

The X-Files (1993)

xfiles.jpgIf you were one of those sniveling nitwits constantly worrying about whether Mulder and Scully would ever get it on, you missed the point of the updated pulp paranoia stories that were The X-Files.

Forget for a moment the messes that were seasons 5-7. Remember the good times — the monster-of-the-week episodes, the early black oil plot, the mystery surrounding Mulder’s sister, the horrible anti-science message, and the lazy skepticism-cum-catholicism thrown into the mix.

If only Chris Carter had remembered that the show wasn’t about some subtle social commentary or some deep Lost-before-Lost-came-along story arc.

By the way, if you don’t know that a new X-Files movie is in production, you forfeit all your geek cred.

Rising Sun (1993)

connerysnipes.jpgI’ve never seen Rising Sun. Honestly, I don’t remember ever hearing buzz about Rising Sun, or trailers for Rising Sun, or meeting anyone who had known somebody who once lived next door to a guy who saw Rising Sun. Therefore, I have no clever comments about Rising Sun.

However, I just had to save this photo from destruction because of the sheer awesome that is its juxtaposition. There’s James Bond standing next to Blade. The world doesn’t get much safer from psychos than that.


Old Star Trek press photos unearthed

December 22, 2007

FROM JASON’S RECENTLY CLEANSED NEWSROOM — So my company is building a new $6 million office, and today reporters were drafted to help purge the old digs of tens of thousands of obsolete documents.

Three decades of photos, police reports, sports statistics, and public meeting agendas were quickly sorted. The trash was tossed from second-story windows into a fleet of dumpsters.

I rescued some of the nerdier loot. My inner Trekkie wouldn’t let these promotional photos go to the landfill (CLICK THUMBNAILS TO ENBIGGEN):

Star Trek: The Original Series

The big three

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This 1968 TOS shot of Kirk (William Shatner), Bones (DeForest Kelley), and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was provided to newspapers over the wire when Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry died in 1991. The slug briefly outlines how Roddenberry, 70, succumbed to a heart attack at Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Kirk has an Austin Powers thing going on

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I would give just about anything to be Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks, regrettably later of Seventh Heaven fame) in this shot. Is it strange to have a man-crush on The Shatner? I don’t think so. I feel obliged to point out that Hicks’ TV husband on Seventh Heaven, Stephen Collins, stars in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (aka Star Trek: Driving Through Space For Two Hours).

Just sing Mr. Bo Jangles already

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Spock loses the ears for a while to get behind the camera. Nimoy directed The Voyage Home (aka Star Trek: The One With the Whales) as well as Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. He wrote Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

I think ST:V really could have used a Nimoy touch. Maybe then the Kirk wouldn’t have killed God by shooting a photon torpedo at him.

Clearly a superimposed still on a model

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Spock, McCoy, Sulu (George Takei), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols, Scotty (James Doohan), and Kirk use a shuttle craft — instead of a handy transporter for some reason — to navigate through Starfleet’s Space Dock on their way to the Enterprise (NCC-1701-A).

Prepare the flux capacitor… ENGAGE!

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The Klingon Bird of Prey carrying the Enterprise crew loses power as it swoops under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I guess it’s time to go find the nuclear wessels so Doc Brown can recharge the Delorean and Marty can get back to the future. Call me cynical, but IV was such a BTTF rip-off that I’ll bet they originally thought about making Kirk meet and sleep with his own mother.

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Look what I learned at business school, Mom

The Klingon ambassador demands Federation cooperation in the extradition of Kirk. He has teh mad Powerpoint skillz.


You could tell he was gay in 1986

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Look at Takei hamming it up in the middle there. Geez. Newsflash, Sulu: YOU’RE NOT A VULCAN.

It may look old, but this shot was distributed as part of a 1991 press junket even though it was from the 1986 promotion of ST:IV. I think the sepia tone has something to do with a chemical treatment of the negative.


Are they in, or are they out?

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I remember the 1980s. I remember French cuffs. I do not recall, however, waistlines that covered my rib cage, wide belts over blazers, or tucking pants into my boots. The only one with an excuse here is Spock. The rest had better hide from Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Behold, the second coming

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I’m a child of the TNG all the way. Sure, I watched reruns of the original series as a very young boy; they would run in syndication on Sunday afternoons. But the launch of NextGen in 1987 was life-changing. I contend that Star Trek makes you a better person, and I say that Picard was as good a father figure as any.

This 1991 promo shows Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), La Forge (LaVar Burton), Worf (Michael Dorn), Troi (Marina Sirtis), Picard (Patrick Stewart), and Crusher (Gates McFadden).

Yeah, he totally Riked her

trek09.jpgIf TNG was the second coming of Star Trek, then Riker was the second coming of Kirk. It seemed The Mighty Beard nailed just about every femalien in the Alpha Quadrant before season three finished, then had to start again. Frakes didn’t stop there, though; he convinced writers to star him as his twin brother, Thomas, so together they could Rike (that’s a verb now) twice the women.

I have dedicated my face to duplicating the Riker beard: Mark II.