by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Life, the Universe, and Everything”

Lessons I Have Learned From Playing Lego Star Wars

Posted 7 October 2008 in by Catriona

1. Blowing up Star Destroyers is improbable, but fun.

2. Life in space comes complete with entirely irritating camera angles. This makes jumping in any environment or running along the edge of a platform on the Death Star fraught with danger.

3. There are many excellent reasons to spend all your money buying invulnerability (see point two). But the best reason is that when you’re playing as Bounty Hunter Leia, don’t quite get close enough to a lever to pull it down correctly, and instead drop a thermonuclear device, you don’t die.

Of course, that begs the question of who thought it would be unproblematic to have the actions “pull lever” and “drop thermonuclear device” controlled by the same button.

4. Ewoks run like girls.

I know, as a good feminist, I shouldn’t use phrases such as “run like a girl.” But it’s true: the female characters (which is to say, Leia) and the Ewoks have the same odd, splay-legged run, as though their knees flick out ninety degrees when they move.

I’m uncertain as to the significance of this, but I’m sure it can’t be good.

5. Girls are a bit rubbish.

Oh, sure, Leia has thermonuclear devices and can open bounty-hunter specific doors. That’s helpful. And if you play as Lando Calrissian and let Leia get too close to him, she’ll slap him in the face, which is frankly hilarious (if a little inconvenient when it happens in the middle of a battle).

But she’s not a great shot. And if you leave her standing around, she’ll put a hand on one hip, throw the other hip out, and stand there posing while stormtroopers try to kill you.

Of course, there aren’t any female Jedi characters, either, but I can’t blame the game for that—George Lucas doesn’t believe in female Jedis, either. (Oh, wait: there was that one in Revenge of the Sith, wasn’t there? The one who got cut down from behind without even having a chance to draw her lightsaber? Yep: I remember her.)

6. Nobody respects Darth Vader.

You’d think he’d be a force (ha! I crack myself up) to be feared throughout the galaxy. And at points, to get through stormtrooper-specific doors and to move objects that are only susceptible to the Dark Side, you have to play as Vader.

And the stormtroopers shoot at him.

The temptation to shout, “I am Darth Vader, your lord and master! Stop shooting me, you daft gits!” is overwhelming.

I think their helmets must affect their hearing, though, because they don’t stop.

7. Allies are more trouble than they’re worth. Really. They get in your way while you’re trying to kill stormtroopers (or when you’re jumping, and then you fall in a pit of lava and die, and there’s crankiness all round).

And then you catch them on the backswing with your lightsaber, and they die.

And, really, they deserve it for getting in the way. If they only stood behind me, it wouldn’t be a problem.

But . . .

Some of them make horrendous noises when they die. The Ewoks and R2D2 are particularly plaintive.

And who want to be the person who slices R2D2 into spare parts?

(Special Additional Lesson I Have Learned While Blogging About The Lessons I Have Learned Playing Lego Star Wars: when you microwave a cup of coffee, it doesn’t just make the coffee hot. It makes the cup hot, too. I feel this is a serious design flaw. Or, just possibly, my failure to realise this is a serious design flaw in me.)

8. Most spaceships have low ceilings, which makes it impossible to do the patented Jedi double jump then forward roll in mid-air.

This in turn negates any value in being a Jedi Knight, at all.

(Nick was showing me his barbarian character in Diablo yesterday, and pointing out how awesome the character was, since he can jump enormously high. “I can do that,” I said. “Plus, I have a lightsaber.”)

9. General Grievous really is a dreadful character. (A four-armed robot with four lightsabers? Gee, George Lucas, why not just give everybody lightsabers?)

Similarly, his level in Lego Star Wars is rubbish.

Possibly, I’m only saying that because it’s my least-successful level, even though it’s only one giant landing platform with some vague rocky landscaping around it. (And yet I can’t work all the way through it. It’s a blow to the ego, that’s for sure.)

But I prefer to blame it on Grievous. He’s no Jar Jar Binks, but still . . .

10. Few things on earth are quite as much fun as watching a Lego version of Darth Vader push boxes across checked surfaces. He really puts his little Lego back into it.

I make Vader do all the required box pushing.

He has to expiate his crimes somehow.

Thank You For The Nightmares, Cadbury

Posted 6 October 2008 in by Catriona

I’ve just seen the new advertisement for Cadbury Brunch Bars (fruity muesli bars with a chocolate coating).

In this ad., two cannons face one another.

An angel is shot from the cannon on the left.

A clown is shot from the cannon on the right.

I said to Nick, “Oh, this is going to end badly.”

Sure enough, the two collide in mid-air, explode into a cloud of white dust, and magically transform into a Cadbury Brunch Bar.

Then the tagline flashes up on the screen: “Goodness mixed with happiness.”

And I shouted at the television, “CLOWNS DON’T MEAN HAPPINESS!”

(Oh, yes: I shouted in capitals.)

I know for a fact that I’m not the only person in the world who suffers from fear of clowns, which the Internet tells me is called “coulrophobia” (although my browser dictionary doesn’t recognise that word, and Wikipedia tells me that coulrophobia is an exaggerated or abnormal fear of clowns).

I need to make this point: no fear of clowns is exaggerated or abnormal. Clowns are freaky.

I can trace this in my own experience to three distinct factors.

I watched It at a sleepover, and have never entirely recovered from the experience. I’m not a big fan of Stephen King at the best of times, and not because he’s a bad writer: frankly, he’s too good a horror writer, and scares the pants off me. And Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown scared me even more.

I was in Year 12 when John Wayne Gacy was executed, and what really freaked me out about Gacy was his tendency to dress up as a clown during block parties. Yes, his crimes were what horrified me, but what’s stuck with me, as a disinterested party, was the Pogo the Clown persona.

And, finally, I blame my coulrophobia on Doctor Who‘s “Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” and those psychotic robot clowns. Those were terrifying.

So, thank you, Cadbury, for the nightmares.

Clowns are bad enough.

Clowns combining with angels in mid-air and then becoming edible?

Oh, that’s not right.

Still Playing With The Super Macro Function. Sorry!

Posted 6 October 2008 in by Catriona

I realise that this doesn’t count as a real update but, thanks to the advice Heretic gave on the super-macro post, I’m getting better at using the function.

It is a volatile function, highly susceptible to shaking and losing focus. But these were taken on the Portrait setting, rather than Manual, so the camera dealt with its own shutter speed and ISO setting, and by using a bag of rice to help stabilise the camera.

A small print:

(The entire print is 10 by 15 cm, but the section included here is roughly 4 by 6 cm.)

My watch:

(I love the detail on that one, especially on the second hand, which was moving as I took the photograph.)

And, finally, some funky beads, in two different levels of close-up:

Some day, I might become bored with my camera and stop posting pictures of irrelevant objects on the blog. But, for now, I can only say, “Sorry! I’ll update properly soon.”

How Could You Reject Such A Thoughtful Supervillain?

Posted 5 October 2008 in by Catriona

My current favourite song lyrics are from Jonathan Coulton’s “Skullcrusher Mountain,” which I only discovered today:

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
You like monkeys; you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

Oh, and I’m so into you
But I’m way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I’m crazy
I’m not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You’d see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn’t kill you yet

How could you turn down such a sweet-talking supervillain? Especially one who has a golden submarine.

And who ruined a pony making a gift for you.

And I Thought The Macro Function Was Cool . . .

Posted 3 October 2008 in by Catriona

Thanks to a conversation with my baby brother, who has the same camera as I have, I’ve been made aware that my camera has a super macro function.

So, naturally, I immediately took some pictures of the Warhammer miniatures. I mean, what else was super macro invented for?

For the record, this miniature measure 4 cm from the top of the axe (which isn’t even visible in these pictures) to his feet.

The section of him visible in these pictures is 2.5 cm, total.

Sure, they’re not the best super macro photographs around. The super macro function is only available as a manual setting, which means I have to play around with the shutter speed and the ISO setting myself—and I’m not familiar enough with either the camera or with manual photography to be confident with doing that.

But I’m still fairly impressed that the camera can do this. (Mind, I need a tripod. My hands aren’t steady enough to manage super macro without some support.)

I mean, I took one look at these, and said to Nick, “Wow, this miniature is quite dusty.”

And it is.

If you look extremely closely.

More Posing Wildlife

Posted 2 October 2008 in by Catriona

I call this series “World’s Most Awesome Lizard, Who Was So Busy Sunning Himself On What Might Be Charitably Called A Barbeque That He Didn’t Care How Close I Came With The Camera.”

Too long?

Today's Random Wildlife Photograph

Posted 1 October 2008 in by Catriona

Spotted in the back garden while I was having an early morning cigarette:

Who’s a pretty boy, then?

Would you like a cracker?

Would you like me to stop patronising you? Okay, then.

And I had to include this one:

Because a bird eating with its feet is adorable.

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