Scary scary screaming shedbaby

The Cuprinol advert may be the most unsettling pre-watershed thing on telly.

Summary for those who can’t watch the video: A couple (a man and woman) are woken up by what sounds like a baby crying. The man tiredly gets out of bed and steps out into the garden, carrying a very large baby bottle. In the garden is a shed, lying on its ‘back’ and crying like a baby, with cartoonishly large tears coming out of its windows (eyes). The man gives it the bottle by placing it where the shed’s door handle should be. The shed drinks the milk, then does a sick and resumes crying. Meanwhile, the woman has stepped into the garden, carrying a tin of Cuprinol. The shed perks up at the sight of this, and the man and woman paint the shed with the Cuprinol. A voiceover tells us ‘Cheer it up!’ and then proceeds to extol the virtues of the product.

When I first saw it, I laughed, but more because it was deeply unnerving than because it was funny. It’s fundamentally wrong for several reasons.

If the shed’s a baby, what will it grow into? Is a shed a baby house?

Whence came the milk? Who lactated it? The shed’s biological parent, presumably. Did they milk their house?! Where are a house’s udders?!

Why is it a baby? The crux of the advert is the shed perking up at the sight of a tin of Cuprinol (providing a lead-in for the tagline ‘Cheer it up!’). All we’d need for that to work is an unhappy shed – perhaps sighing glumly. The actual setup used, with the shed crying like a baby, is completely unnecessary. Nor is it a pun or reference or social commentary. It’s just freaky as hell.
How did this get approved? How do you pitch something like this? What must it be like being a CGI animator, coming home and your partner asking ‘How was work?’, and your only truthful reply being ‘I had to animate a shedbaby doing a sick’?

Haha, you don’t know what fannies is

Content warning: don’t read this if you don’t want to read about childish misunderstandings of how sex and genitalia work.

When we received sex education in Year 3 (ages 7-8), I had a few subsequent misconceptions. (Poor word choice, maybe. Misconstrue…ments? Is that a word?) A lot of them didn’t get cleared up until Year 6 (ages 10-11) and 7 (11-12). For starters, I thought puberty was ‘buberty’ because I never saw it written down until Year 6.

For some reason, I was afraid of pooing too hard and shitting out my vagina. I don’t mean pooing out of my birth canal (though that would be extremely grim); I mean actually pooing my mutton tube out of my body and having it land in the toilet. No idea why I thought that, apart from perhaps that a vagina looked vaguely like a poo in the diagrams (which also didn’t accurately convey that an unoccupied vagina lies flat and isn’t a constantly-open void).

They told us that sperms are microscopic (something that didn’t get through to a fellow pupil in secondary school, who thought sperms were tadpole-sized), but not that they are conveyed in a liquid medium and are emitted only upon ejaculation. I thought men constantly exuded a miasma of sperm wherever they went, and that because the sperms were microscopic they’d drift through the air and float everywhere. I was scared of sitting anywhere a man had sat or walking where he’d walked, in case I got pregnant.

Later I learned about sperm being suspended in liquid, but because they didn’t properly tell us about ejaculation and wanking, I assumed that people who donated sperm had to have a needle inserted into their bollocks to extract the sperm. Kind of jealous that half the population can donate gametes for science just by wanking into a cup instead of by surgery. The closest I’ll get to tossing off for science is if they repeat that experiment with a woman flicking her bean in an MRI scanner.

I had to get all my information on menstruation from my mum and from books. Sex education taught us only that the uterus grows padding, then sheds it if unneeded. I assumed that meant I’d piss it out. From internet anecdata this seems to have been a common misunderstanding. It’s interesting that the birth canal is mentioned but its separation from the urethra isn’t made clear – and that ‘vagina’ is used for the whole cunt and not just the birth canal. Did they think learning ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva’ would be too hard for us?

I don’t remember learning anything about cocks, even though my schools’ sex education was never gender-segregated. I think I was about 18 when I learned penises have muscles, for example (and was then disappointed to learn that most penis-owners can’t make them go like meatspin under their own power).

I don’t remember where I learned about the existence of the clitoris (might have been Year 7). I certainly wasn’t taught in school how big the clitoris really is and that it isn’t just the nub. I was pretty angry when I found that out – pleased to have learned something new about my body, but angry that this information had been kept from me. I’ve also only very recently learned that cis women have prostates (formerly called Skene’s glands). You could argue that we don’t really need to know about these things to have sex, but it’s too fascinating not to tell! The ‘seam’ on the underside of a cock is effectively fused pissflaps that developed differently – like a caterpillar’s munching jaws morphing into the butterfly’s proboscis. That’s amazing. Why wouldn’t they tell us this?

Rayman Origins

I started writing this shortly after I got the game in late February. It’s taken me this long to get round to finishing it, because I’ve been having too much fun actually playing the game and chasing PSN trophies.

In this time of prequels and reboots, it’s refreshing that the oddly-named Rayman Origins is neither. There is some minor exposition, most of it on the game’s official website, but Rayman’s ‘origins’ here largely mean a return to the 2D platforming of the original PSone game.

Origins is a very good advert for both the Vita and the Ubi-Art engine with which the game was made. It’s a port (from 2011’s P/X/W version), but what a port! This kind of gameplay was what handheld consoles were made for, and the graphics look gorgeous on the Vita’s screen. It also makes use of the touchscreen with some features not present in the P/X/W version.

Like the original Rayman (released in 1995 for the PSone), Origins is very pretty and absolutely nails. Unlike the first Rayman, Origins is made much more fun by virtue of not using the quaint mechanic of finite lives, and by being easily the silliest game in the Rayman franchise (with the possible exception of Raving Rabbids, which has been retconned out of the series’ continuity). It has Loco Roco-levels of brightness and cheer with almost Ren and Stimpy-esque character animation.

There’s almost no plot to speak of. Oh sure, the game’s blurb says something about saving the world before it vanishes like a bad dream, but the game keeps it unobtrusive. All we take from the brief & wordless intro video, and all we really need to know, is that the baddies were woken up by Rayman & co’s loud snoring, and stole all the lums and imprisoned the electoons in a grumpy huff. You need to go and get them all back, and you might as well stomp on the baddies while you’re at it. (Incidentally, lums are “‘looms’ like ilLUMination, not lums, for dumb.”)

Progress is simple: reaching the end of a level unlocks the next one. Incentives for doing more (finding relics, finding and opening cages of trapped electoons, collecting lots of lums, or successfully speed-running a level), include PSN trophies, extra characters and a couple of exposition scenes.

Origins is a very fluid platformer that needs quick thinking and responses, and pulls this off well enough that it feels more like not thinking and just acting. The enemies are often the most static and least menacing obstacle – the challenge coming from the environment shifting beneath and around you. Cliffs break, bouncy plants sprout, walls re-align and form a different path from the one you were going to take a split second ago.
The game has a nice difficulty curve, and is saved from repetition by granting you a new power at the start of each new world (Rayman yet again having forgotten how to attack, glide, swim etc. at the beginning of a new adventure).

The level design plays with staple themes by mashing them together in ways not normally seen, resulting in something more fun than the sum of its parts. The Desert of Didgeridoos is a desert level – phooey. But wait! – mixed with a musical theme. Gourmand Land is the staple slippy-slidey ice level (and later fire level), saved from familiarity-induced boredom by being made of food.

Recovering plenty of electoons unlocks more playable characters, but all are simply re-skins of starters Rayman, Globox and two Teensies. There’s no difference between each except animations (though the Globoxes can be slightly easier to play because of the noticeable hurtbox/sprite dissonance).
Collecting lots and lots of electoons earns you access to the Tricky Treasure levels; the only reward that’s not simply cosmetic/flavour. Tricky Treasure levels are the game distilled and then turned up to 11. You must chase a fleeing treasure chest, and if it manages to get off-screen you die – if you don’t get killed anyway by spike pits, incoming piranhas, falling rocks, etc. Finishing all 10 gives you access to the incredibly hard Land of the Livid Dead.

Exclusive to the Vita version are the previously-mentioned relics. These are camouflaged against the scenery and must be collected by tapping the touchscreen. Most of them are so well-hidden that the only clue one is nearby is the rattling sound they emit. It’s somewhat odd, given that picking one up usually involves staying still, tentatively zooming in (pecking at the touchscreen with your fingers, like an uncertain pheasant) and poring over every millimetre of screen, hoping to spot a relic when it makes its periodic twitch. It’s quite a contrast to the running and jumping and gliding. It’s also the only bit of the game where sound helps you (and by a large amount) instead of just being atmospheric; if you can’t hear, your opportunities to pick up relics are probably limited to sheer luck.
Relics unlock wall mosaic tiles in the home level – when complete, they show why Globox is blue and how Rayman is able to use his hair to glide.

This game is wholly silly and delightful. It’s slick, and even the loading screens are gorgeous. The music is charming and jubilant. The whole package is a great blend of superb art direction and 2D platforming that shows it’s still a worthwhile genre.

Originally published in April 2012.

How tall is Sandalphon?

In Persona 3, the Compendium info for Sandalphon says that it would take 500 years for a human to walk the length of his body. How long is this?

I happen to know that I can walk about 2 miles in 45 minutes; that was the distance and time it took me to walk to school. A quick check of Google Maps confirms this: the distance from my house to my old school is 2.2 miles, and Maps even tells me this journey should take 45 minutes on foot.

2.2 in 3/4 of an hour equals 2.93 in one hour. I’ll round this down for ease and to provide a conservative estimate, so 2.9 mph it is.

If I walked continuously for 24 hours, I would walk 69.6 miles.

1 year of this would be 25,404 miles.

500 years of walking would cover 12,702,000.

Of course, leap years occur every 4 years. In 500 years we’d have 125 of these, so that’s 125 extra days of walking to give a true figure of 500 Earth-orbits.

That’s another 8,700 miles, giving us a total of 12,710,700 miles, making Sandalphon taller than the star Capella.

The Earth is less than 8,000 miles across, making Sandalphon over 1,500 times as tall as the Earth is wide. Earth’s average distance from the Sun is approximately 93,206,000 miles. If Sandalphon stood on Earth, he would reach nearly an eighth of the distance to the Sun.

Sandalphon becomes much smaller if we take ‘500 years of walking’ to mean walking as much as you comfortably could in a day, with breaks for eating and sleeping. This will vary considerably from person to person. (Assuming 8 miles a day for myself, this would make Sandalphon 1,461,000 miles tall – somewhere between the diameter of the Sun and Sirius A.)

I chose to round 2.93 down to 2.9. Some might have rounded it up to 3, and I’m sure I could walk 3 miles an hour if I needed to. Assuming this speed, Sandalphon becomes 13,149,000 miles tall.

Perhaps Atlus got it wrong, and it’s not meant to be 500 years. (Though even the more sensible-sounding 500 days gives us a Sandalphon 34,800 miles tall, still much taller than the diameter of the Earth – bigger than Neptune.)

Wikipedia seems to not only back up but increase Atlus’ figure, saying that Sandalphon is taller than the other angels by a distance that would take 500 years to walk. Their source for that piece of information isn’t quite as clear, though.

Searching for Sandalphon online yields little to no information about his absolute size, except for Wikipedia and sites related to Persona 3 or other MegaTen games. Most sites either say that Sandalphon is ‘very tall’ or that his size enables him to reach ‘from Earth to the Heavens’. (Is Heaven only 13 million miles away?)

Trying to find out how Rabbi Eliezer arrived at his figure of ‘[a height that would take] 500 years to walk’, I found that he was eventually charged with heresy, and that he was generally viewed with suspicion. This figure of 500 years is probably a little datum that slipped through the net – and I wonder how Atlus got hold of it.

Pooey videogames

Videogames are one of the best things ever (and are more or less the main subject of my blog). Poo is one of the funniest. Sometimes these two things occur together. Here’s a list, more or less in ascending order, of pooey pixelated perfection.

Wario Master of Disguise (DS, 2007)

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One of the minigames has you unite falling objects with their correct containers, including a poo into a loo. Wario himself gains a guff attack in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Persona 4 (PS2, 2009)

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One of the personas your character can summon is Belphegor, a demon of sloth. Developer Atlus chose to depict him as a horned demon sitting on a toilet, and his attack animation makes it pretty obvious he’s pooing. Persona 4 also averts the lack of toilet-needing common to games (and films) – your party member Yosuke spends much of the first dungeon level frantically looking for a toilet, and is eventually forced to wee in a corner.

Ratchet & Clank 3 (PS2, 2004)

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Sewer levels are a videogame staple, which is why this list doesn’t simply include every game with one. R&C3 gets in because the sewers are not only probably the biggest level, but are populated by giant slime beasts that drop poo crystals. A plumber buys them off you because he wants them for a necklace for his wife.

A Dog’s Life (PS2, 2003)

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You can briefly relieve the tedium of this insipid game by having Jake lay a dog-egg, and then pick it up and even throw it at humans. Boringly, no-one screams in disgust at this – or shows any indication of giving even the tiniest shit. Jake also guffs copiously if he eats bad food.

Black and White (PC, 2001)

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Having to deal with poos is unsurprising in an sim game that involves animals. The fact that your creature is taller than a house is. You can instruct your animal avatar to pick its tonne-turds up, and then throw them or eat them.

World of Warcraft (PC, 2004)

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WoW has a number of poo-related quests, the funniest of which is probably Doing Your Duty: an Alliance-only quest to take a laxative and shit out some seeds you were weren’t supposed to have eaten. There are sound effects. They’re even different from your character’s standard I’ve-been-hit grunts, implying the screams of horrified agony were recorded specifically for this quest. After you turn in the quest, it’s implied that this isn’t the first time this has happened – i.e. you ate seeds that have already been through a previous adventurer’s cornhole.

WoW also has /fart, /burp, /nosepick and /moon emotes, but unfortunately not /poo. (Tip: make a macro to couple Chained Essence of Eranikus (don’t tell me you handed the damn thing in!) with a /fart emote.)

Okami (PS2, 2007)

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In Okami, you play as the goddess Amaterasu reincarnated in the body of the wolf Shiranui. Appropriately, you can wee and poo on enemies to make them drop rare items. The game politely refers to the moves (Golden Fury and Brown Rage) as ‘insulting’ your enemies.

Space Station Silicon Valley (N64, 1998)

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In this game by the studio that would eventually become Rockstar North, you assume control of various robot animals. Among these are rats who have an exploding poo attack.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64, 2001)

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One of the bosses is the Great Mighty Poo, who lives in Poo Mountain.  As you fight him, he sings operatically about poo, and flings jobbies at you.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day would probably win the title of pooiest game in existence, if not for…

Toilet Kids (TurboGrafx, 1992)

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A Japan-only release for the TurboGrafx, Toilet Kids was a shoot-em-up versus jobbie-flinging enemies. Among these are poos who throw poo at you. My word.

Bonus list:

These games are rather toiletty – unfortunately, hilarious though wees and guffs are, they aren’t poos. In no particular order.

Team Fortress 2 (PC, 2007)
One of the sniper’s attacks is called ‘jarate‘. It’s a jar full of wee.

Abe’s Exoddus (PSone, 1998)
Though Exoddus wasn’t quite as polished as its predecessor, Oddysee, the cover price was almost wholly justified by the fact that one of Abe’s new moves was an exploding fart. Abe can drink a tin of semi-lethal Soulstorm Brew, trump, possess his trump, and fly it somewhere and explode it.  You can also use (non-exploding) farts tactically to make your allies move one step away – much quicker than a ‘follow me’/’wait’.

DJ Boy (arcade, 1987)
In the original Japanese version, one of the bosses was a woman with a guff attack. The US version changed her appearance to make her less of a a racist caricature (good), but, boringly, bowdlerised her attack into doughnut-throwing. Boo!

Postal 2 (PC, 2003)
You can piss on people, which causes them to urp a sick in disgust. This is probably the least offensive thing about this game, which ended up banned in Australia.

The Sims (PC, various from 2001)
Toilets are a not unexpected artefact of a life simulation game. The Sims, however, is remarkable for being probably the only game in which you can kill someone by surrounding them with toilets.

How to be a Complete Bastard (ZX Spectrum, 1987)
Based on Adrian Edmondson’s book of the same name, Bastard places you in the role of a party guest, whose objective it is to be wankerish to the other guests. There’s a fartometer with which you can clear the room.

Leisure Suit Larry (various from 1987)
The series is more known for its sexual themes (such as a wanking minigame) than anything else, but features some amount of trumps &c. The 2004 release Magna Cum Laude includes a weeing function for reducing Larry’s drunkenness.

Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo, 1993)
One of the character Earthquake‘s moves is a guff. In fact, guffs seem to be something of a staple in fighting games. (Note that Earthquake gains ‘better graphics on the fart’.)

Fur Fighters (Dreamcast, 2000)
Toilets in games are unremarkable by themselves. Fur Fighters’ get a mention because they’re GIANT toilets (used by dinosaurs).

Duke Nukem Forever (multi, 2011)
The trailer makes a thing of the fact that you can do massive pisses. Informs @TummyCustard: “It may restore “ego” (health) but the game was so boring that I honestly can’t remember.”

Super bonus time!

I didn’t bother with indie/browser games, because there are probably loads and would be worthy of a list in their own right. Here’s one to start you off: Don’t Shit Your Pants