Thursday, December 09, 2004

Creepiest Ad Ever

I don't know if they show these ads outside of Ohio, but I just saw another example of what I consider the "Creepiest Ad Ever" on TV. Its an ad for a mortgage company called "King Capital." Its typical of its kind of ad in that it has a smarmy looking guy (who is probably Mr. King) in a tux shilling how great his mortgage company is. That's not the creepy part.

The creepy part is that he has his kid (also in a tux) on his lap. And the kid doesn't just sit there and look cute - oh no - the kid has a speaking role. Specificially, the kid talks with his father's voice and continues the smarmy spiel that the dad gives on low interest rates. The creepy part is the way that they superimpose the dad's mouth over the kid's face. It looks eerie. And on the new one they just showed the kid looks like he needs a shave (the kid is probably 2 years old tops). They should have filmed the ad earlier in the day, I suppose. And at the end of the ad the kid sings with dad's voice "You're the King at King Capital." Just so strange.

Anyway, these ads get my "Creepiest Ad Ever" award because its just so creepy to see someone using his kid as a ventriloquist dummy. I mean, if you want a dummy make one out of wood like people have been doing since vaudville. Don't dress your kid up in a tux and make him spout lines about low interest rates in your creepy voice. That's just wrong - totally, totally wrong. And it in no way makes me want to see how low your interest rates are, just for the record.

Campaign Journal - Setting

The characters are all natives of the island of Aeru - a large island roughly the size of Great Britain. Until a few decades ago, most of Aeru was ruled by the Archduke, a man appointed by the Emperor of mainland nation of Theria to govern the island nation. A little over twenty years ago the Archduke died without an heir. With the death of the Archduke, various warlords and minor nobles each tried to lay claim to the Archduke's title, and the island fell into chaos for decades.

In recent years, a level of peace has descended over Aeru. The petty warlords and minor nobles have each achieved a level of control over their lands, but none has the strength to push his advantage and take control of the whole isle. In addition, representatives of the Emperor have begun to insist that the island work out its problems and maintain the Emperor's tribute - or else.

Much of Aeru is uncivilized "frontier." Many bordertowns sit at the edges of what can loosely be called "civilization" in Aeru. These towns generally rely on self-sustaining agriculture, although at one time most towns were set up to be either mining or lumber towns, supplying the fruits of their labors as tribute to the Empire. Over the last few decades, more and more of these towns have turned to subsistence farming as the roads to the port cities have become more dangerous and lawless.

The world of Aeru is slightly different from most D&D campaign worlds. Elves, dwarves, gnomes and many other non-human races are legends from ancient history. Some are still born with traces of "fae-blood" in them, throwbacks to an ancient race known in legends as the Fae. These throwbacks are called "faeborn" and are often looked at with fear, contempt, and occasionally envy by their human brothers and sisters.

The goblin races are among those who share the world with humans. On Aeru, tribes of goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears live at the fringes of human civilization. Usually goblins stay separate from human society, at least on Aeru. Occasionally, however, children of goblins and humans are born. These fearsome looking men are known as "goblinspawn" by their human brothers and sisters. Goblinspawn often have no place in either human or goblin society, usually becoming nomads and adventurers out of necessity rather than design.

Religion on Aeru is also different from most D&D campaign worlds. The major religions of Aeru are druidic in origin. Different Orders of druids revere different aspects of nature in their own ways. The people of Aeru also tend to follow druidic teachings, especially in the bordertowns near the frontier. Here, the only religion that people are exposed to are the teachings of the Druidic Orders. In addition, the druids often use their divine powers to assist the communities that they tend to by helping with mundane tasks like pest control and ensuring that crops get enough water.

As an outgrowth of the Druidic Orders, a number of Monastic Orders also dot the landscape of Aeru. These monastaries house men and women who have decided to take the life of quiet contemplation instead of the more active role that the Druidic Orders take. Although the Monastic Orders grew out of the Druidic Orders on Aeru, some Monastic Orders are so different from their founding druidic principles that outsiders often do not notice the connections. Other Monastic Orders maintain strong ties to their druidic roots, with both monks and druids becoming members.

The other major religion of Aeru is the Church of Theria - technically the only legal religion on the island. When Theria conquered Aeru millenia ago, the Empire impose its Church on the people. The original religions of Aeru were persecuted out of existence, with the remnants of the old priesthoods slowly turning into the Druidic Orders of today. The Church of Theria is a "monotheistic" religion that demands that the faithful worship only one god - the Emperor of Theria. The Church insists that the Emperor is the God-Emperor of Theria, and all other gods are merely demons pretending to be gods. Indeed, over the last thousand years most of the ancient gods of Aeru have been completely forgotten.

Our story begins in the bordertown of Gerald's Haven. This community is a typical bordertown on the Aeru frontier. The town is the size of a small village, with maybe fifty residents in town and a handful of farmers in the surrounding area. The town itself is protected by a large wooden stockade and by a militia of the local able-bodied men and women. These protections are primarily there to guard the town from raids by the local goblin tribes.

Recently, the raids by local humanoid tribes have stepped up in frequency and ferocity. In the month before the campaign began, the humanoids raided the village and kidnapped six members of the community. Two weeks before the beginning of the campaign, a group of experienced villagers undertook a raid on the humanoid stronghold near town, the Demontooth Citadel. As the campaign begins, the villagers are realizing that their loved ones and the rescuers may not be coming back. It becomes obvious that it is up to our heroes to do something about it.

End of the Quarter

Well, that's over with. I took my last two finals today and now I'm totally wiped out. Its been about six years since I last took a final and I'd forgotten how intense the week of testing could be. I'm ready to relax for a few weeks now - good thing Winter Break starts now, I guess.

Of course, I won't be just slacking off and relaxing over break. In addition to the travels to visit the family and the work around the house that I've put off over the last 11 weeks, I've got reading to do for the research I'm doing next quarter. It looks like interesting stuff, but I need to make sure I don't go overboard and that I get some relaxation in along with the reading and running around.

And, I'm hoping to get some serious updates to my sites in place over the next few weeks. We've got plans for at least two (maybe three) D&D sessions over the next couple of weeks and I can't wait! As the kids say "WOOT!"

Monday, December 06, 2004

My Brain Hurts

Ow. I feel like I've been going non-stop all day, but I only had one final today. I imagine I'll be totally exhausted on Thursday when I have two. Its been so long since I last had a finals week (6 years!) that I'd forgotten how intense they can get.

Back to the books.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Arrested Development

Just watched the latest episode of Arrested Development, and I have to say that I love this show. I started watching it last season and it quickly became a "must watch" show for me. The characters are so bizarre and the writing on this show is hilarious. It really is one of the shows that I look forward to every week.

Tonight's episode was really funny, as the family finds out that their father was killed in Mexico and plan his wake. Okay, as I type this I realize that it doesn't SOUND funny, but trust me - it was. No matter how dark the situation gets, the way this disfunctional family operates makes the whole thing funny.

Anyway, I like spotting hidden touches in the shows I watch, and this episode was a trip. My favorite "bit" was the way they played the Charlie Brown Christmas theme when a character was sad - the character would walk around all hunch-shouldered with the weight of the world on his back. Absolutely hilarious in action, but the funny "bit" was when I noticed it the first time, George Michael, the son of the main character, was walking by a doghouse that had a dog sleeping on top of it. It was pretty quick and you might not have noticed it if your attention wandered, but it was funny.

Anyway, that's it for now. I spent most of the day studying for my first final on Monday, so not much time for other things today. I'm hoping to do another Campaign Journal entry later this week.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Justice League Unlimited

We watched the Justice League Unlimited episode Ultimatum tonight. I thought it was another great episode for this season. I love all of the little "nods" in this episode - to the old Superfriends cartoon as well as to the DC Universe continuity. I'm also loving the on-going conspiracy subplot that is going on through this season, but more of that in the SPOILER section:

Highlight below to read the SPOILERS:

First of all, I was highly amused at the way that the Ultimen map to various Superfriends. Apache Chief to Longshadow, Black Vulcan to Juice, Samurai to Wind Dragon, and of course (my favorite nod) the Wonder Twins. I was also highly amused by the fact that the Justice League members for the episode were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman - making the team as a whole almost the "regular cast" for the Challenge of the Superfriends era of Superfriends (or maybe just after that - I'm getting my seasons mixed up, I think). If either Robin or Casey Kasem had been in the episode, it would have been perfect....

And on top of that, the only supervillains seen in the episode are Giganta and Bizarro - a combo who in the universe of Unlimited don't really make sense together, but they were teammates in the Legion of Doom during the Superfriends days, so that amused me as well. (And they were freeing Grodd - another member of the old LoD...)

As far as the plot goes, I liked the progression of the government conspiracy subplot that we first started seeing in the episode "Fearful Symmetry" earlier this season. Seeing Emil Hamilton crop up again and now finding out that he's working for Amanda Waller was GREAT. I imagine that the Ultimen were the animated universe's initial version of Task Force X - we'll see if they get the bright idea to use captured supervillains later.

And Max Lord as the smarmy PR person for the Ultimen amused me to no end. I love how they work these DC Universe characters into the storylines. J.M. Demattias (co-writer of the Maxwell Lord era Justice League International) had a creative credit at the beginning (along with Dwane McDuffie), so I guess that might explain it a little bit.

All in all a great episode. I hope we get to see more of Longshadow too. I was a fan of Apache Chief as a kid (he can get real big - how cool is that? Okay it sucks, but I was a kid), and Longshadow is a much better character than Apache Chief. That's a lousy rationale, but I liked what I saw in this episode.

That's all for now. Another new episode next week! I think its supposed to be Dark Heart, the other Atom episode for this season - I can't wait!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Josh Reads the Comics So You Don't Have To

This is a laugh-out-loud funny site. Go read it. Just go.

Josh Reads the Comics So You Don't Have To

Campaign Journal

So now for something geeky...

One of the things that I've wanted to do is post a "Campaign Journal" for the D&D game that I've been running. I have always felt that this was an incredibly geeky thing to do, so naturally I'm drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

First some background: This game has been going on for over a year now, with a regular (rotating) cast of five players plus me as the DM. We don't play very often - we were playing roughly every 2 weeks before I started back to school in September. Since then we've only played once, but we're going to be playing weekly over the break and we'll see how it goes.

The cast of characters

Nightfall - Faeblood (aka half-elven) druid. Nightfall is, of course, not his given name. Nightfall was the adopted child of a family of farmers in the frontier village of Gerald's Haven. When Nightfall's brother was captured by one of the local goblin tribes, and an initial rescue mission goes wrong, Nightfall decides to try to rescue him.

Cronk - Goblinspawn (aka half-orc) barbarian. Cronk and his half-brother Morgan were originally raised by one of the local goblin tribes, but were cast out to the village of Gerald's Haven when Cronk was quite young. Morgan was one of the members of the rescue mission organized by the villagers to try to recover their family members. When the rescue mission went bad, Cronk decided to rescue his older brother.

Kerrigan - Faeblood rogue/sorcerer. Kerrigan was the apprentice of an old, retired "adventurer" who came to Haven years ago. Kerrigan had a fellow student - a goblinspawn named Morgan. When Morgan disappeared during the rescue attempt, Kerrigan decided to join Cronk in trying to get him back.

Thelonius - Human monk. Thelonius is a member of the monastary of the Sylvan Path, located in the village of Haven. The Sylvan Path requires that their members experience the world after their initial training, and Thelonius knew that the villagers needed help getting their loved ones back from the goblins.

Kateri - Human fighter. Kateri was the final "founding member" of the group. Kateri's mentor, an outcast knight from the Empire to the West, was among the group that did not return from a rescue mission in the goblin ruins. Kateri joined the others to try to get her teacher back.

Manfred - Human cleric of Kraith, Lord of War and Peace. Manfred is not an "original" cast member, but rather joined the group fairly recently. Manfred is from the same nation (Aeru) as the rest of the group, but is not from Gerald's Haven.

That's it for now. Later, the setting.

First Post

So I've been reading different blogs for a while, and I think "Hey, I'm egotistical enough to think that other people care about what I think about things. Why don't I have a blog."

One little signup with Blogger later and - presto - I'm the owner of a brand-new blog. So, now I get to post a bunch of stuff that few will read and fewer will probably care about. Awesome!

So what am I going to talk about in this blog? Whatever I feel like (ah, the power of the Internet). In general, I suppose its going to be about my interests, so there will probably be posts about role-playing games, comic books, sci-fi and other suitably "geeky" stuff. I'll probably also post about my life as a Computer Science grad student occasionally and all of the excitement and intrigue that that entails...

Since I've got finals next week this is of course the PERFECT time to be starting something like this. After all, I should be studying my rear off to get the grades, but what better thing to do the week of finals but start a site to post things for random strangers on the Internet. What fun!

We'll see how this little experiment works out. Will it be a fun little thing that I maintain as a hobby, a horrible timesink that drags down too much of my time, or something shiny that I play with for a little while before discarding it for something newer and shinier? Stay tuned!