Monday, 20 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Friendship University"

The personal reasons I alluded to last time mean that I wasn't able to post here for a few days, and I'm now falling behind with the show again. As I type, I haven't even seen "The End in Friend", and I'm really not going to start trying to keep up with the Australian/Swedish/French/Martian schedules! So, to the TRR for E16. No Dark Qiviut or ShutterflyEQD any more means a slightly light roster, though of course I'm always looking for any text-based reviewers I've missed!

"Friendship University" was a fairly well received episode. None of the reviewers outright disliked it, although some of them gave it only qualified support. Each reviewer's attitude to Flim and Flam tended to colour their opinion of the episode as a whole. Cuddlepug, who loved it, even came up with a pretty straight review, not something that happens all that often!

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "complex, ambitious and funny [...] The stakes are high – higher than they are in most episodes [...] engaging throughout")

Derpy News – fairly positive (graded B+; "The episode itself is good, though points off because Twilight’s disguise leaves a lot to be desired while Rarity again steals the show.")

The Dragon Warlock – mixed (graded B+; "I think the brothers have run their course at this point. [though the ep] does have some funny moments, sets up stuff for the season finale, and it does give us a Rarity and Twilight episode.")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 9/10; "Had some great moments in it, especially Twilight's disguise and... Plainity.")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 3/5; "I don't usually love FlimFlam episodes, though I do usually like them. That was the case here.")

Mega Sean 45 – extremely positive ("very clever [...] so using [Twi and Rares] was brillant! [...] a fantastic episode")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Star Swirl [...] plenty of new visual delights [...] plenty of surprises and entertainment")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "plays really well into Star Swirl's character [...] it almost looks as though they're building up to something grand for the finale")

Rainbine – mixed (rated 3/5; "[Rarity] was honestly the best thing about the episode [but it had] pretty poor pacing")

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 3 of 3

This is a scheduled post. For personal reasons, updates may be uneven for a while. If they turn up, then great, but if there's a dry spell at any point, it won't mean I've given up on this blog. Very much not the case!

Here's the final part of this series, in which we discover The Railfan Brony's thoughts on episodes 3 through 10 of S8. (To remind you, "School Daze" was a video review, so doesn't belong here, and from "Molt Down" onwards these are included in regular TRR editions.) For this season, Railfan moved away from numerical marks and to a simple one-word rating. It's actually been rather fun doing this, though it's not something I'd like to do all the time. TRR for "Friendship University" will be along sometime in the next few days.

Railfan had a fairly good time with this section of S8, and at one point three successive episodes earned an Excellent rating. However, things went downhill after that. As you'll know if you've read TRR since then, he's considered some episodes very strong (eg "Molt Down" and "The Hearth's Warming Club"), some on the meh side (eg "Marks for Effort") and some very poor (eg "The Mean Six" and "Yakity-Sax"). Not all of his ratings agree with mine, but why should they? So Railfan, as long as you keep writing these reviews, I'll keep including them in TRR.

803: "The Maud Couple" – positive with reservations (rated Good; "a very strong message [although] the plot is quite thin [...] Had it not been for the theme, it would've gotten a worse rating.")

804: "Fake It 'Til You Make It" – fairly positive (rated Good; "surprisingly good given that Josh Hamilton wrote this [...] the humor was actually quite funny [but] the rest of the Mane Six (barring Rarity of course) felt kind of useless")

805: "Grannies Gone Wild" – very positive (rated Excellent; "did Gillian Berrow pull [this] off? Absolutely [...] funny [...] the whole conflict all felt believable and relatable")

806: "Surf and/or Turf" – very positive (rated Excellent; "I liked Terramar a lot. He is incredibly sympathetic and relatable [...] subtle allegory [...] Seeing Scootaloo swim around as a seapony is just adorably charming [but] the conflict between Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle felt rather shoehorned.")

807: "Horse Play" – mostly very positive (rated Excellent; "Celestia is an absolute delight throughout the entire episode [...] the standout was Fluttershy, no question [...] issues with Twilight and Pinkie's characterization [but] a solid episode")

808: "The Parent Trap" – negative (rated Bad; "boy, does it get frustrating after a while [...] a crapload of wasted potential [Sunburst is] so boring [but Starlight] does what she can to give the episode some weight")

809: "Non-Compete Clause" – very negative (rated Terrible; "the Young Six are really good throughout [but the episode] completely ignores character development that had happened in the past seven seasons [...] the moral comes off as extremely forced, and the ending makes the whole endeavor pointless.")

810: "The Break Up Breakdown" – positive (rated Good; "the characters are actually entertaining, Discord and Spike especially [and the] best character of the episode was [...] Big Macintosh. [However,] the Crusaders' subplot felt useless")

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 214: Grey Sky Morning

Title explanation: Vertical Horizon song

Here in Britland, we're now long past the end of our heatwave and back to standard British weather. As I type at 4pm on Tuesday, it's overcast, breezy and 21 °C. For reasons which have not yet been entirely discovered, August has almost always been the least summery summer month during the last 15 years or so, and 2018 looks set to continue that trend.

Read it Later story count: 319 (-8)

Well, how about that? Five fics to review today, which is not what I was expecting to happen!

Administrative Angel by horizon
Benign Providence by Haysit T Ganaram
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by sunnypack
More Than Muscle by Level Dasher
You Want to Do What Now? by Nyarlathi

★: 1 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Episode review: S8E16: "Friendship University"

Rarity (as "Plainity") and Twilight (as "Eye Patch") argue
"This was the only emergency eye patch Pinkie had left!"
Well, it seems that I did have time to write a quick episode review after all. It's been a while since we saw Chris "Doc" Wyatt and Kevin Burke on the writers' credits for My Little Pony. In fact, their last episode was S6's "Viva Las Pegasus", which divided fandom opinion but which I liked rather a lot, and not only because of all the Fluttershy. How would this week's effort shape up? Come past the break with me and we'll find out!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Episode review will be along shortly

This week, anyway. I've had a much longer and more tiring weekend than I was expecting (although some of it was enjoyable) and I just haven't had the time or energy to write up my review for "Friendship University" yet. If everything falls into place, it'll be up tomorrow, but otherwise it'll be later this week.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 2 of 3

Time for the second instalment in this little series, which covers from episode 14 of S7 to that season's finale. Railfan continued to enjoy S7 in its second half, although not as much as with S7A (only five episodes rated 9 or 10) – and he most definitely didn't share my opinion of its first episode, "Fame and Misfortune"! For him, S7B was a bit uneven early and late, but it had a very solid core.

714: "Fame and Misfortune" – extremely negative (rated minus 3/10; "handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the crotch [...] the worst thing about the message is how insulting it comes off as [...] a complete disgrace to the series")

715: "Triple Threat" – mixed (rated 6/10; "just barely avoids mediocrity [...] I still find Thorax to be unlikable and unsympathetic, the plot comes off as confusing [but] Ember comes off as a strong character, the themes are really good, and there's a few funny jokes")

716: "Campfire Tales" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Sometimes, the best episodes are those that give us little to talk about")

717: "To Change a Changeling" – broadly positive (rated 8/10; "It's fairly entertaining, Pharynx was an interesting character (and more charismatic than Thorax has ever been), and the theme was a useful one for kids to learn.")

718: "Daring Done?" – very positive (rated 10/10; "The story of Somnambula [...] was a brilliant tie-in to the episode's theme about hope.")

719: "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "Haber's best solo episode since 'Simple Ways' [...] the theme [...] suited Rarity's character brilliantly")

720: "A Health of Information" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "quite possibly Fluttershy's best starring role since 'Keep Calm and Flutter On'")

721: "Marks and Recreation" – positive (rated 8/10; "Rumble's a surprisingly relatable character and the themes relating to him are great, but he should've gotten a punishment for his actions.")

722: "Once Upon a Zeppelin" – mildly positive (rated 7/10; "the plot is rather thin, and needed to rely on strong characters to see through it. And it works. Mostly...")

723: "Secrets and Pies" – extremely negative (rated minus 5/10; "just awful, plain and simple. I don't know why anybody would even want to watch this episode; the main characters are unlikable and unsympathetic, the solution was too obvious, and the morals are terrible.")

724: "Uncommon Bond" – very negative (rated 2/10; "I find Sunburst to be a boring, uninteresting character [...] offered nothing in terms of originality [...] painfully dull")

725/726: "Shadow Play" – very positive (rated 10/10; "There's the right mix of comedy and drama, the storytelling is really strong, and the characters all felt genuine.")

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Here we go again! A slight drop in the reviewer count this time, as there's nothing from Dark Qiviut this week and it seems ShutterflyEQD's DeviantArt account (where their reviews were published) has been suspended. I'm not prepared to wait longer than a week for reviews, as otherwise it gets confusing since the following episode will already have aired. That being so, onwards!

This The Breakfast Club-inspired episode was very well received by most, with only Cuddlepug having a more mixed view and nobody outright disliking it. There were a few reservations about Twilight's choice of punishment, but the Student Six were very popular.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C+; "It's interesting learning about the festive rituals [the Student Six] engage in [...] but sadly the characters themselves are largely uninteresting")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "Remember how I said MLP usually does a good job of giving a fresh take of a oft-told storyline? This is what I am talking about.")

The Dragon Warlock – positive (graded B+; "really good character development for Gallus [...] doesn't break 'Molt Down' or 'Horse Play', but [S8] definitely stepped up its game")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "I loved this episode! [Gallus's story was] very touching [but Twilight] threatening all of the students to not be able to go home to their families for the holidays is just mean [...] Everything else was perfect.")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "an immensely entertaining episode, one which plays to the students' strengths and also gives us some backstory to flesh out their characters [though] Twilight's choice of punishment seems extremely harsh.")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("my personal favorite [Hearth's Warming episode] so far! Why? Well because of the development of the Student 6 of course, and how far they've gone together")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "so much effort was put into [the animation] a heartwarming and festive episode")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "I love it [...] the real standout character was Gallus [...] the story is brilliant, and the Young Six really shine")

Rainbine – very positive (rated 4.5/5; "I loved this episode [...] the students are still very likable [...] predictable [but] I had a lot of fun")

Friday, 10 August 2018

Episode review: S8E15: "The Hearth's Warming Club"

Twilight, Rainbow and Spike confront the Student Six in a purple goo-covered room
"And if I ever, ever see Gak in this school again, it'll be too soon"
At last, I'm up to date with S8, on the Discovery Family schedule at least. I was really looking forward to "The Hearth's Warming Club". One reason was that I'm now a firm fan of the Student Six – props to the writers for making me care so much about characters who've been around for barely half a season. The other reason was that this episode was written by Brian Hohlfeld, who debuted with the excellent "Surf and/or Turf" earlier this season.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Text Review Roundup "The Railfan Brony" special, part 1 of 3

I have now seen "The Hearth's Warming Club", so expect my review of that episode before the end of the week.

In a comment the other day, The Railfan Brony mentioned that he'd added reviews of S7 and early S8 episodes* to his blog, and wondered whether I'd be willing to add them to Text Review Roundup. I felt that retroactively adding them to the earlier TRR posts would be a bit unsatisfactory, but that I'd like to give them a place. To keep post length in check, I'm going to pull a Julius Caesar and divide the reviews into three parts, which I'll post over the next couple of weeks. Today, the first half of S7.

* Except the S8 premiere, which was in video format so doesn't qualify for a TRR spot.

Railfan had a pretty good time overall with S7A, awarding a 9 or 10 to no fewer than nine of the 13 episodes. He's kinder towards a few episodes than the fandom as a whole was, most notably in his admiration for "Fluttershy Leans In", the episode which came dead last in the UK of Equestria S7 poll. I'm afraid yak fans will be disappointed, though!

701: "Celestial Advice" – very positive (rated 9/10; "I really hope Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco stay for the foreseeable future.")

702: "All Bottled Up" – rather negative (rated 3/10; "Trixie was a nuisance in the first two acts, and the B-plot feels like [padding]. However, it did feel like the first step for Starlight to get some character development")

703: "A Flurry of Emotions" – very positive (rated 10/10; "This episode, I thought, did do Flurry justice [...] but can't we have visual consistency with the [Cake Twins]?")

704: "Rock Solid Friendship" – broadly positive (rated 7/10; "I've got problems with Pinkie's IQ in this episode [but it] does provide a very strong lesson")

705: "Fluttershy Leans In" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "the themes are amongst the best of the show, and Fluttershy's character is at her peak [...] a fantastic Fluttershy episode.")

706: "Forever Filly" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "beautiful and heartwarming from beginning to end [with] some of the most mature themes in a kids' show.")

707: "Parental Glideance" – mixed (rated 6/10; "I liked Scootaloo's role [but the flashback's continuity feels off] it has a good idea [...] but the end result comes off as weird at best.")

708: "Hard to Say Anything" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Despite a couple of issues I have, I still enjoyed it, and would gladly take this over Legend of Everfree [which Railfan detested] any day of the week.")

709: "Honest Apple" – very positive (rated 9/10; "The pacing is quite possibly the strongest aspect [...] emotions are also handled brilliantly [though] the Applejack/Rarity dynamic feels extremely overused")

710: "A Royal Problem" – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "possibly my favorite episode of the [entire] series, hooves down [...] perhaps [Starlight's] best overall [...] The themes alone in this episode are brilliant ... Daybreaker [is] a great addition")

711: "Not Asking for Trouble" – very negative (rated 1/10; "painfully sluggish [...] the episode's biggest downfall is the moral [...] boring")

712: "Discordant Harmony" – very positive (rated 9/10; "Fluttershy is the standout character [...] I've got some issues with the "be yourself" moral being overdone, but it makes sense for Discord to learn it.")

713: "The Perfect Pear" – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "I dare you to go watch this episode and say you weren't close to crying [...] in my [all-time] top 5"

And that's all for today! At some point in the next few days I'll put up the second instalment of this mini-series. Part 2 will of course kick off with S7's most divisive episode, "Fame and Misfortune". Exciting, isn't it? :P

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

No Ponyfic Roundup today

Owing to my break last week, PR is also taking a break. Never fear, though: it'll be back next Wednesday! Among the stories under review will be horizon's Administrative Angel. If you're really lucky, there may be more than one story under review. :P

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Text Review Roundup: "A Matter of Principals"

I'm going to give continuing with Text Review Roundup a go and see how well it works. Given that I'll be reviewing episodes on roughly the DF schedule (once I've caught up!), it shouldn't be impossible. However, I don't think I'm going to be able to add in late reviews any more, as the timetable would just get too confused. We'll see.

A pretty full slate of reviewers this time, and there's a running theme: Discord's sometimes startlingly unpleasant characterisation was generally very unpopular, with the vast majority of reviewers disliking it.

Cuddlepug – very negative (graded D-; "the episode actually rewards Discord for being an asshole")

Dark Qiviut – rather negative ("[Starlight was right to apologise but] the story lets [Discord] off without any level of consequence and rewards him for it [...] almost all the jokes fall flat [...] watchable mediocrity")

Derpy News – mixed (graded B; "Some of the gags were funny, some of the cameos were great, but the episode does suffer a bit from Discord’s antics.")

The Dragon Warlock – negative (graded D; "The character bonding with Spike and Starlight is fun and reminds me of the early days of Spike and Twilight. However, as soon as Discord shows up, things start falling apart.")

JDPrime22 – positive with reservations (rated 7/10; "I'll admit that while I did enjoy the comedy in this one (the whole bit with Trixie and Iron Will was great) we see Discord being unusually cruel to the students")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; "This could have been a four-star episode, but Discord's characterisation – the Yona scene in particular – leaves a sufficiently sour taste for me to knock off one of those stars.")

Mega Sean 45 – generally very positive ("Discord is an immature baby [but] a very impressive episode!")

MLEEP Reviews – mixed (rated 7/10; "great getting to see the many different cultures of Equestria explored [but] felt like [Discord's] character had regressed")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "[Starlight and Discord's] characters make sense, the third act is one of the funniest of the show, and the twist at the end was rather unexpected.")

Rainbine – mildly positive (rated 3.5/5; "Starlight Glimmer once again proved that she's a great character [but] Where did the hell did [Discord's character development] go in this episode?")

ShutterflyEQD – positive with reservations ("I sure wish I could favorite more from this episode, but Discord really got on my nerves.")

Monday, 6 August 2018

Episode review: S8E14: "A Matter of Principals"

Discord, wearing glasses and consulting a scroll, gives a mischievous smile
"They never would be missed"
I probably ought to mention, so I will, that I'll be reviewing episodes on the Discovery Family schedule, more or less. It seems that Boomerang in Australia is likely to rush through the entire remainder of the season at two episodes per week, and that's just too hectic a schedule for me. Now I'm back home from my little break, I can talk a bit about this episode: "A Matter of Principals" was written by Nicole Dubuc, and...

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 213: Spotlight on The Cough

Yes, that's right: I'm doing a Spotlight edition of PR for a story that's barely a thousand words long. This wasn't my original intention, but I just can't fit everything I want to say into a single paragraph. In fact, this post has ended up longer than the fic itself!

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

The Cough by Ebon Mane
Mane Six
Romance/Dark; 1k words; Aug 2011; Teen (Gore)
The mane six take shelter in a place that is, for now, safe from a disaster occurring outside.This gruesome tale of violence and death is not recommended for colts, fillies, or the faint of heart.
This fic's opening line is "In the darkness, somepony coughed." The question is who. It matters because, as Twilight explains, coughing is the symptom of the final stage of a terrible disease that becomes highly contagious. In other words, the only way to stop all the Mane Six sickening and dying is for the cougher to die. Right now. The play-out is grim, so be prepared. However, at the end you'll be left wondering. (These days, I suspect the fic would have [Horror] and [Mystery] tags.) This is a very old story, so bear that in mind as regards characterisation, and it also really shows its age in the plentiful LUS. Ebon Mane's writing was not as good in 2011 as it later became. Despite those problems, this fic is likely to stick with you – and perhaps even keep you awake at night. ★★★★

Some more detailed thoughts, which are very spoilery indeed, await beyond the break.

Monday, 30 July 2018

BronyCon to call time after next year

At the end of this year's BronyCon, the organisers made a big announcement: the 2019 iteration will be the last. There are a few reasons in a short FAQ at the bottom of their official homepage, but the impression given is that with attendance on a downward slope, they want to call it a day before BronyCon turns into a shadow of its former self. They'll be aiming to go out with a bang in a four-day finale in early August next year.

I never made it to BronyCon and I never will (reasons are several, but include health issues) but this news still hit me. After all, for as long as I've been in this fandom – since spring 2012 ‒ BronyCon has been around, and its 2015 edition was the largest My Little Pony con ever held with just over 10,000 people attending. That is a record that will never be broken, so it will always be the largest convention in history for fans of talking pastel ponies.

This is not the end of the MLP fandom. It's not even the end of the brony fandom. I do think it may be one more tentative step on the road towards G4 becoming a part of the wider MLP fandom – which, after all, has been running since long before Twilight left Canterlot; the My Little Pony Fair in the USA and UK PonyCon over here started in 2004. But a show as popular and successful as Friendship is Magic doesn't just fade into nothingness. There will always be bronies.

Will there always be brony conventions? Well... "always" might be a hostage to fortune. But they're surely not all going to disappear in the next year. BABSCon has already said that it will continue while there are enough people going to make it viable, while Everfree Northwest and GalaCon in Germany have made similar comments. The likes of SEAPonyCon in southeast Asia show that you don't need to be in America to have a good time. Here in the UK, the year features three conventions for the first time since 2016, with UK PonyCon looking set to break its attendance record yet again.

Of course BronyCon will be missed when it's gone. How could an event like that not be? But please don't make the mistake of equating one convention, however large and star-studded, with the fandom as a whole. You know what is the fandom as a whole? All of us who are in it. Whether we run cons or attend meets, whether we draw fanart or write fics, whether we buy custom plushies or chat about Pony on social media...

As long as people are talking about MLP, our gloriously silly fandom lives on.

Let's keep it that way.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

UK PonyCon in the mainstream media

In this weekend when about every second tweet reminds me that BronyCon and GalaCon are on and I'm not at either of them, I need things to take my mind elsewhere – but still keep it on ponies. Fortunately, I have two! One is that later today I'll be off for the Worcester meetup group's annual all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. If there's any pudding there which features custard, you can be sure I'll be all over it. (Well, not literally. Probably.)

The other is that UK PonyCon (which I do hope to be at) has had some mainstream media coverage, something much rarer for British conventions than for the big American ones. Nottingham Live's headline – "Thousands of My Little Pony fans are coming to Nottingham - and here's why" – is perhaps a little over the top, but the article itself is reasonably straightforward and accurate, even mentioning correctly that only Sunday tickets remain.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Pony Music Library 55: "Queen of Nightmares"

It's been more than a month since I added to the Pony Music Library, so let's induct a new song today! Well, not a new song, but you know what I mean. This is a track I didn't actually know anything about until I chanced upon it while flicking through the tracks I hadn't tried in My Little Karaoke some while back, but it really stuck in my head.

What? "Queen of Nightmares"

Who? Time Baby

Which? Original song

When? November 2013

Why? What drew me into this song was the long intro, with its deceptively twangy banjo. Then the main part of the song came in and I was truly hooked. You don't get many songs specifically about Nightmare Moon, but this one fixes that. The breathy vocals fit the subject really well, and the banjo (which almost sounds as if it's about to break into Journey of the Sorcerer) creates a fascinating contrast. There's a definite hint of Depeche Mode in there, though the bridge reminds me just a little of mid-era Talk Talk. The whole atmosphere is dark and unsettling, ideal for its subject. For this to have barely 5,000 views is a crying shame.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Yakity-Sax"

Well, it couldn't last, could it? After the simplicity of the pre-hiatus scheduling, Friendship is Magic is now airing episodes all over the place. As such, I'm afraid I can't promise when there'll next be a Text Review Roundup – especially as it looks as if three episodes will premiere while I'm away staying with family over the next week or so! Many regulars haven't reviewed this episode, so this is a smaller edition of TRR than sometimes.

The general reception was negative, with the episode's moral coming in for particular criticism. When did Derpy News, usually so positive, last grade an episode D? Even "Non-Compete Clause" got a C from them! Rainbine even gives us a new rating: "Gigantic Pile of Shit". My two-star rating for the episode looks really quite mild in comparison! There are reviewers who liked "Yakity-Sax", but they're in a clear minority.

Dark Qiviut – positive ("The moral is simple, but relatable and makes sense.")

Derpy News – negative (graded D; "needed to take a better tack [...] this was not a good episode")

JDPrime22 – generally negative (rated 5/10; "the moral of this episode is completely wack ... No. No, no, no. Bad writers")

Louder Yay – rather negative (2/5; "a very unsatisfactory moral ... a missed opportunity for a nostalgia trip")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "practice truly does make perfect as 'Yakity-Sax' made for a truly perfect episode")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "[Pinkie] learns nothing, which leads ... the episode's intended message to fall flat on its face")

Rainbine – extremely negative (rated Gigantic Pile of Shit; "Pinkie was so annoying [...] a chore to sit through")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("it left good vibes")

The Dragon Warlock – extremely negative (graded F; "manages to somehow do the unthinkable; make Pinkie not just bad, but despicable [...] The comedy is awful [...] the writing is atrocious [...] deplorable episode.")

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 212: Letting your heart be your guide

Title explanation: Hasbro uploaded the G1 theme

Nothing to do with My Little Pony, but I was delighted recently to discover that you could finally get Beatles songs on YouTube from the official channel, ie one whose videos weren't going to be zapped by Apple. I've always been a big Beatles fan, though maybe not as hardcore as some (I just can't sit through Revolution 9), so this was big news for me.

Read it Later story count: 327 (+4)

Another five-fic week, which is pleasing given that our epochal heatwave is still going along. I know 30 °C isn't anything special for some of you, but weeks on end of it here most definitely is. Anyway, another interesting (to me; I can't speak for you!) collection of tales this time around. They are:

The Talk by The Descendant
Tough Little Pony by Isseus
Why We Dig by Starscribe
The Rainbow Factory? by Just Horsing Around
Somnambula's Legacy by Nyarlathi

★: 0 | ★★: 3 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Monday, 23 July 2018

Episode review: S8E18 (or 14, or whatever) : "Yakity-Sax"

Pinkie Pie wearing a helmet and holding the yovidaphone
Back in "Magic Duel" you could play ten instruments at once...
The release schedule for the next few episodes of Friendship is Magic is a complete mess, and since that period also coincides with a holiday week for me, I'm likely to be a bit behind with episode reviews once again. However, this time there's an early release. Equestria Daily calls this episode 18, while the MLP Wiki calls it episode 14. Whatever, it was written by the Fox Brothers, with whose episodes I have a fairly mixed relationship. After the break, a few thoughts...

Friday, 20 July 2018

Special mini-review: "Rollercoaster of Friendship"

Applejack looks left out of shot as Rainbow Dash shushes Megan Williams
Megan is now G4 canon! (In EqG, at least.)
Apologies for the lack of a full-length review for "Rollercoaster of Friendship", but with FiM apparently returning today it was either a mini-review now or a much longer delay. Anyway, Nick Confalone returned for a special that, though entertaining enough for the most part, fell a bit short of his earlier "Forgotten Friendship". It wasn't a disaster by any means, and most of the girls had at least the occasional good line or scene, but it didn't feel as enjoyable or important as the earlier special had.

There was certainly plenty for the RariJack shippers to enjoy, and AJ's reaction to Rarity getting an (apparently) plum job when she was rejected made good viewing. Mind you, much of the rest seemed a little by-the-numbers. Vignette made a decent and suitably unlikeable villain, despite her inevitable near-instant reformation at the end, though the "white room" reveal was just plain silly. The song ("Photo Booth") was not one of EqG's best, being rather generic and forgettable. The special itself was better than that, but even its best scenes lacked the emotional power of Sunset's return to Equestria in "FF".

Oh, and the ponying up at the end seemed a little pointless, but apparently this is Hasbro-mandated for financial reasons. A bit like Rainbow Power, I suppose. I went back and forth between a top-end two-star rating and a bare three a number of times while I was thinking about this review. In the end, it just about scrapes into the higher bracket, partly down to an amusing Rainbow/Fluttershy subplot involving a rather scary rollercoaster – and partly due to that little Megan Williams cameo!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

In which Newborn Cuties blows my mind

Close-up of Newborn Cuties DVD against a white background
This is a European-spec disc; I have no idea whether US-spec ones exist
If you're even slightly familiar with Newborn Cuties, the final version of MLP to be made before Friendship is Magic came on the scene, you'll probably know the name "Over Two Rainbows". This is one of the precisely two NC cartoons made (the other being "So Many Different Ways to Play") and is often cited as the worst official My Little Pony cartoon ever to be released.

The reasons for this are many and varied, ranging from the character design to Rainbow Dash's total obsession with her "super special scarf". However, one of the biggest is that, in the video most people have seen online, the ponies' mouths are not animated at all when they speak. This is what leads reactors to opine that the cartoon just doesn't look finished.

The thing is... they may be right on that. I own an official Newborn Cuties DVD, under the title Once Upon a My Little Pony Time. And the animation for this version of "Over Two Rainbows" in that is... better. The ponies' mouths move, people! Also, the faces have some semblance of emotion, the storm scene is more than two pictures and there are a few short additional scenes which add a little depth.

Since both versions of "Over Two Rainbows" are currently available on YouTube, you can easily compare for yourself. I don't link to full episodes on this blog, but a search for "Over Two Rainbows" will find both easily enough: the video with "gen 3.5" in the title is the worse version, while the one with "ver.2009" in the title is the same as the one on my disc.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 211: Why you gotta ruin everything with questions?

Title explanation: lyric from "Picture Perfect Pony"

I read the Community Soapbox feature on Equestria Daily from time to time (and one of these days I may finally get around to submitting another one). One of last night's was about Twilight stealing the pearl in the movie. What interested me was that opinion in the comments was heavily skewed towards "It was wrong, but understandable given Twi's desperation" rather than "It was a stupid plot point". I agree, but I actually expected more of an even split.

Read it Later story count: 323 (-3)

I'm back up to five stories this week! The hot weather has relented slightly (though we've still had very little rain) and so it's been a bit easier to concentrate. A seriously mixed bag of characters, settings and genres to deal with here. The five fics under review this time around are as follows:

Pranks for Nothing by Baal Bunny
The Doom that Came to Tambelon by MagnetBolt
Spreading Your Wings and Hers by Crowley
Childhood's Legacy by Queen of Fools
The Incandescent Brilliance by KitsuneRisu

★: 1 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

"A good fandom"?

This is, of course, a question with no one definitive answer, but it's also a question that interests me. It's not something I feel I could sensibly discuss on Twitter, as there just isn't room for the uncertainties and shades of grey that I feel are essential. I'll make it quite clear, though, that in general, I have a fairly bright outlook about our fandom. Off we go...

An argument I saw someone make not so long ago ran like this: it's unhelpful to simply say things like "This is a generally good fandom, but there are some bad apples" because then everyone mentally places themselves on the good side of the ledger, so any hard truths don't get through to those people who need to hear them. I think my reply would be: "Up to a point, but not entirely."

As an analogy, consider a chief constable who says, "This city has a problem with knife gangs." I wouldn't have a problem with that. I wouldn't expect them to say, "This city has a problem with knife gangs, though of course the vast majority of the population aren't criminals" because that would dilute the message. People who aren't involved won't assume the criticism applies to them anyway.

But. If the police chief only ever mentioned the bad things about their area, then I'd argue that would not be good policing. There's a community cohesion aspect that can't just be ignored in the name of catching the bad guys. So if the police chief were asked directly, "What do you think of the people in this city?" I would expect them to note the community's good points as well as the problems.

In fandom terms, it's absolutely right that people call out racists and misogynists and homophobes and the like. And such messages are stronger when undiluted. However, it's not good for the community if that's all that's stated when someone's asked about the fandom. If there's no special reason not to, then yes, it's perfectly fair that the good points should be stressed as well.

As I said above, I take a moderately optimistic view of this fandom. It's not perfect and never will be, because we're human beings, so working to make it better is a good thing. But on the whole, I think the MLP fandom, right now in 2018, does more good than bad in the sense of making people's lives happier, and I feel comfortable saying it in those terms.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Small story, big impact

As most of you will know, I usually read short stories rather than lengthy epics. Not so long ago, I read one that may well result in a Ponyfic Roundup spotlight review that ends up being longer than the fic itself. You're welcome to guess if you like, but I won't confirm or deny until the review is actually out! (Should be this month or next.)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Have an old PMV

I don't have much to talk about, at least not now. I do have one or two things I'd like to post about, but they're things that will take actual effort and it's still too hot for that. So here's "Stamp on the Ground", a PMV by FluttershyElsa from August 2012 that was once enormously popular, as its 1.87 million views will testify. Nothing too demanding here, just a bit of old-fashioned fun. I'm all for that!

Note: this PMV contains rapidly flashing images.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 210: It's Coming Home (Edit: Well, England will be...)

Title explanation: that football song

Yes, all right, I'm sorry. I'm not even much of a football fan. But I am English, and my team is playing a World Cup semi-final this evening, so I'm going to make the most of it. It'll all be over one way or the other by PR 211, after all! On we go...

Read it Later story count: 326 (-1)

A poor week for me, back down to three stories. The heat hasn't helped, but in this case I've just had so much to do that spare time has been nearly non-existent. I'm actually quite glad I've managed to get through anything at all! Here we go(, here we go, here we go), then:

Paper Tigers by Midnight Dancer
With Your Shield Or On It by PatchworkPoltergeist
The Secret Lives of Books by derpyland

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

UK PonyCon weekend and Saturday tickets sold out!

As announced by the con's communications lead Irish O'Conner on the official UK PonyCon forum yesterday (as well as on various social media), UK PonyCon 2018 weekend and Saturday tickets are now sold out. Sunday tickets are still available, but in restricted numbers and it's likely that these won't last that much longer either. Still, if you want to attend and haven't yet bought a ticket, this is your last chance! Since tickets are not transferable, you won't get one if you leave it any later. Yes, it is worth coming for the Sunday alone, so don't hang around if you feel you'd like to. Visit the official webstore to buy.

Friday, 6 July 2018

100 days until UK PonyCon!

Actually, because this post isn't going up until Friday, it's 99 days – but hay, who's counting? Anyway, yep, we're getting pretty close to convention time now, although it probably doesn't seem so unless you're on the committee or making stuff to wear or vend for the con. I'll be heading off to Nottingham for a little recce with a friend in the very near future, as bizarrely I've hardly ever visited the city in spite of it being only 80 miles from me.

Having already done a bit of research with the help of Google Maps and Street View, one thing I definitely appreciate about Nottingham is its relatively compact city centre. Its population is around 300,000, roughly the same as Coventry's, but the latter city sprawls and has a mess of a ring road (albeit improved recently) that cuts it off from the rail station. Navigation in Nottingham, on foot or by tram, seems likely to be quite straightforward.

Myself, I don't have much to do to prepare for UKPC this year. I don't go in for cosplay, my hotel is booked and my ticket is bought, so really it's just a case of making sure I can afford to eat when I'm there! My budget is likely to be quite tight compared with last year's, but I'm at least guaranteed a few souvenirs as they're included with my ticket tier. If all goes well, this will be my fifth UK PonyCon, and I've never failed to enjoy one yet!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 209: The Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls

Title explanation: Manfred Mann song lyrics

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

It's still far too hot here in central England, so I've found it hard going to get anything at all done, let alone reading ponyfic. Still, I've managed to get through four stories, so let's see what's under the microscope this week. We have:

Rainbownomicon by Void Chicken
Minuette's Imaginary Friend Replacement Service by Ceffyl Dwr
Just Fine by ferret
Exes by Donraj

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 1

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Pride and prejudice?

The Mane Six against a rainbow flag and the legend #PONYPRIDE
I eagerly await Twi's double ascension
Okay, a very unoriginal headline, but it's hot and I'm tired. Last night, the official My Little Pony Facebook page and Instagram account posted the above image, together with the text "Colorful and proud ❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜 #PrideMonth". Rather predictably, reaction has been mixed, though at least reasonably civil as of the time of my writing this post. I'm not American, so it can be hard to appreciate how politically charged LGBT issues still are in the US. (They can be here in England too, but not really to quite the same extent.)

On a similar note, Vivid Syntax posted a story yesterday called Pride, which is about the Whinneapolis Pride celebrations and features a large cast of characters based on fandom OCs. It so happens that my own (Proton) is one of these. The fic has received a few downvotes, but as I write none of the downvoters have actually left a comment explaining. Personally I found the fic great fun. Probably not one for those who are sticklers for show-like feel, but I read it in the garden with a cold drink and enjoyed it throughout.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Just five weeks to go! (Well, probably)

It seems that Zap2it is showing the resumption of new episodes of My Little Pony from 5th August. If that's accurate, and in the past Zap2it usually has been, then that's a slightly shorter hiatus than I was expecting. I'm not complaining, you understand, but it does mean less time left when I might actually do some damn writing! Instead of any actual fanfic, then, have this brief untitled verse I bashed out the other day for (US) National Writing Day:
This morning, I took up my pen,
But then I set it down again.
I picked it up, I put it down,
And watching, with a puzzled frown,
You said, "This writing lark is tough—
Why don't you stop if it's so rough?"
I answered, with a gentle moan,
"Ideas won't leave me alone!"

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 208: Spotlight on Cheerilee's Thousand (1,000th review special!)

Ponyfic Roundup review no. 1,000! Thank you for sticking with me since 2014!

In the end, I couldn't resist spotlighting this particular fic to mark the occasion. I almost never review stories that aren't marked Complete, but I have done it once before (Proofreading Clopfics Sucks, PR 112). In both that story's case and this one's, the key point is that they're effectively anthologies, albeit with a running thread, so you don't feel you're left hanging at the end in the way you would with a conventional fic.

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

Cheerilee's Thousand by xjuggernaughtx et al
Comedy/Random/Slice of Life; 97k words; Nov 2013–Jan 2017; Teen
Cheerilee goes on one thousand terrible dates.
Okay, not a thousand. There are actually 59 chapters, but that's good enough. This fic has a simple premise: what if Cheerilee kept going on dates that kept going wrong? It takes a few chapters to really get into gear, but then the author hits on an idea involving ducks, and from then on it's a hoot to read. Cheerilee's dates are occasionally with canon characters (you'll feel for Caramel), but they're more often with some nicely imagined OCs. Some chapters are written by guest authors (especially in the middle part of the fic) but on the whole they fit in well. A little of the snappiness is lost late on, by which time the chapters have swollen from their original thousand-ish words to over 3,000, but on the whole it rattles along. Very entertaining, even if Cheerilee isn't your favourite pony. ★★★★

I'll talk a little more about this fic below. There may be spoilers ahead, but while there's moonlight and ponies and love and romance...

Monday, 25 June 2018

Twitter, escapism, mental health and ponies

Some of you may follow, or at least occasionally glance at, my Twitter account: @louderyay. Not everyone now realises this, but I actually set that up in April 2013 specifically to go with this blog and intended it to be mostly used for MLP stuff. That's why the names match! This is relevant to what follows.

Last weekend, I took a semi-holiday from Twitter. By that I mean that I didn't avoid it altogether, but that I used it only for a few things – updates on the Worcester ponymeet on Saturday, talking about a walk I took, etc. I took a conscious decision not to post anything really serious for those two days.

And it helped. It helped a lot. It also made me think about some changes I need to make.

This is a long post, so I'll put it under a break, but I hope at least some of you will feel like reading it. If you do, comments are open, but please read all of this post before you make them.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Season 8A – the UK of Equestria rankings

It's that time again – the mid-season hiatus, that is. This time around we had 15 lists submitted, up three on this time last year I'm pleased to say. One thing that was noticeable was how close things were in the middle of the pack, but there was a clear leader and an even clearer wooden-spooner. My own rankings are in brackets after the episode name.

1. "Surf and/or Turf" (1)

2. "The Mean 6" (5)
3. "The Break Up Breakdown" (4)

4. "Molt Down" (3)
5. "School Daze" (7)
6. "Horse Play" (2)
7. "Marks for Effort" (6)
8. "The Parent Map" (9)

9. "Fake It 'Til You Make It" (11)
10. "The Maud Couple" (10)
11. "Grannies Gone Wild" (8)

12. "Non-Compete Clause" (12)

Number of times each episode placed first
4: "Surf and/or Turf"
2: "Marks for Effort"
2: "Molt Down"
2: "The Break Up Breakdown"
1: "Fake It 'Til You Make It"
1: "Grannies Gone Wild"
1: "Horse Play"
1: "The Mean 6"
1: "The Parent Map"

Number of times each episode placed last
13: "Non-Compete Clause"
1: "Fake It 'Til You Make It"
1: "Grannies Gone Wild"

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. "Fake It 'Til You Make It"
2. "Molt Down"
3. "The Break Up Breakdown"

Least controversial
1. "Non-Compete Clause"
2. "School Daze"
3. "The Maud Couple"

A notable feature of this list was the amount of disagreement: every single episode had at least two people placing it at ninth or below, and almost every single episode had at least one person placing it in the top three. (I'll get to the exception in a minute.) This may lend support to UK of E's general feeling that it was  a consistently decent half-season, but one without true standout episodes.

Although "Surf and/or Turf" was a clear winner, no fewer than nine episodes were chosen as S8A's best by at least one person. Compare this to S7A's rankings, when "A Royal Problem" ran away with the contest, being placed at the top of the class by nine out of 12 voters. Two episodes were given both first and last places: "Fake It 'Til You Make It" and "Grannies Gone Wild".

All but one episode had a standard deviation of rank between 2.640 and 3.871. The massive outlier, which scored just 0.561, was "Non-Compete Clause", by far the most consistently disliked episode since we started doing this in S4. Out of 15 people, one placed it tenth, one 11th... and everyone else last. Most didn't hate it, but all felt it was well below the standard of the half-season as a whole.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Mean 6"

Yay, now TRR is up to date as well! This time, we welcome back both Mega Sean 45 and Dark Qiviut, the latter with a very detailed review. I've also added a new reviewer in ShadowtheDarkNinja. Always happy to hear of new people I could add! (Though not Amino-based reviewers, please, as that place hurts my eyes.)

As usual, how I assess a review will depend on my own feelings after reading it; this is why an 8/10 review can sometimes be classed "positive" and sometimes "very positive". The text reviewers' assessments were all over the place for this one, with the biggest spread of opinions I can recall for a long time.

Cuddlepug – negative (graded D+; "confusing mess of an episode")

Dark Qiviut – wildly positive ("Its storytelling is outstanding with excellent dialogue, comedy, drama, and heart.")

Derpy News – positive (graded A-; "in the higher end of Season Eight")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "This episode was fun. I loved the interactions of all these characters")

Louder Yay – broadly positive (3/5; "a fairly mixed bag, but a pretty watchable mixed bag)

Mega Sean 45 – mixed ("I say in Chrysalis' side of the episode, it was really good [but] I found the ol switcharoo between the two different plots to be kinda confusing and a bit boring at the same time.")

MLEEP Reviews – wildly positive (rated 10/10; "a marvelous followup to what was a marvelous season [6] finale")

The Railfan Brony – extremely negative (rated Terrible; "The Mean 6 had no point whatsoever; it's the dictionary definition of anticlimactic.")

Rainbine – very negative (rated Very Bad; "Boring, predictable, and worst of all, pointless.")

ShadowtheDarkNinja – mixed (rated 6/10; "I can't give the Mean 6 anything close to perfect.")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("As much as I loved Queen Chrysalis returning, I just loved the amount of entertainment that this episode held.")

TheDragonWarlock – generally negative (graded C-; "this episode squandered what could've been an amazing episode for something so underwhelming.")

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Episode review: S8E13: "The Mean 6"

The "photographer" with Fluttershy, whose mane is in Pinkie's style
We only saw this for half a second, but it cracked me up
Well, it's taken a while, but here I am at last getting up to date with FiM again! The final episode before the mid-season hiatus was written by Michael Vogel, last seen sharing writing duties with Nicole Dubuc in the S8 premiere. The synopsis for this one seemed intriguing, but because of my holiday I already knew it had received a rather mixed reaction. (More of that in Text Review Roundup tomorrow.) Beyond the break, I'll say how I felt about it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 207: It does mean changing the bulb

Title explanation: Red Dwarf line

Read it Later story count: 327 (-4)

Hey everyone, look how many stories I have for you this week! That's right: five! Yay! And I'm even going to begin with the fic I trailed last week. (You do read those footnote sections, don't you? Of course you do.) Oh, and the final review this time is my 999th on Ponyfic Roundup. Just saying.

Six Months in July by Fiddlebottoms
Sleeping Habits by Redric Carrun
Banned by Summer Dancer
Bad Decisions Make Better Stories by Sporktacles
Mrs. Robinson's Stand by WishyWish

★: 0 | ★★: 0 | ★★★: 3 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

UK PonyCon tickets selling out fast!

Before I get on to UK PonyCon, a quick update on my schedule here. I plan to have Ponyfic Roundup up on Wednesday as usual, then (at last!) my review of "The Mean 6" on Thursday. This will be followed by that episode's Text Review Roundup on Friday, plus something else I keep forgetting about at the weekend. (Wait and see! Nothing thrilling, though.)

On Sunday, UK PonyCon announced that less than 10% of Saturday capacity remains. Unlike last year, there will not be a second tranche of tickets released for UKPC 2018, since capacity is fixed. That means that if you want either a Weekend ticket or a Saturday-only ticket, you need to get your skates on!

Sunday tickets, as you might expect, are a bit further from running out, and these will remain on sale after Saturday/Weekend ticket sales end. In line with UK PonyCon practice for the last few years, tickets will not be sold on the door. In other words, please don't delay and risk missing out on the convention!

The announcement also mentioned that UKPC has "sold more tickets than previous years, meaning this will be the largest UK PonyCon ever." Considering that last year it was already about twice the size of the 2014 event, that's quite something! Under four months to go, and it's getting exciting.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Brief audio thoughts on S8A, with text transcript here

I felt like making a short audio review of the first half of Season 8, so here it is. The whole thing is less than eight minutes long, so don't expect in-depth analysis. It's quite deliberately just a brief summary. For those who prefer to read reviews, a full transcript follows.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Marks for Effort"

Time to get TRR off the ground again. This episode had a mixed reception, with some reviewers loving it but others being distinctly unimpressed – and indeed, we're starting the list with one of the latter. Unfortunately, Dark Qiviut hasn't uploaded a review of episode 12 (or 13, for that matter), so has had to be left out.

Cuddlepug – negative (graded D+; "I would advise other prospective students look [...s]omewhere less corrupt, with teachers who don't hand out degrees to their little sisters. ")

Derpy News – very positive (graded A; "[Starlight] quickly became the funniest and best part of this episode.")

JDPrime22 – fairly positive (rated 7/10; "pretty fun episode")

Louder Yay – positive (3/5; "Lots of nice dialogue and humour [but] Twilight didn't behave very well")

Mega Sean 45 – no review up yet. Comments suggest one may be coming eventually, but I'm already late with this TRR! Placeholder left here as I know they've written an E13 review.

MLEEP Reviews – positive (8.5/10; "while it does have a few flaws here and there, the effort that was put into 'Marks For Effort' really does show")

The Railfan Brony – mixed (rated Okay; "a thin plot and predictable outcome")

Rainbine – very negative ("3/10; "Before we got to the Starlight scene, the episode felt slow, dull, and boring [...] This was a Very Bad Episode.")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("this episode was very enjoyable the whole way through!")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (graded C+; "just doesn't have anything really special")

Friday, 15 June 2018

UK PonyCon news: Distance Supporter Membership and tram ticket offer

Text Review Roundup has been delayed until tomorrow as I have some convention news to report. It's been a little while since I wrote about UK PonyCon here, but that's going to change now. For one thing, I've booked my hotel, so yay for that. In this post, though, I'm going to mention two things:

1) Distance Supporter Membership

If you're familiar with the concept of "spirit badges" then this idea won't be new to you, but it is new to UKPC. It's a way of showing support for the convention even if you can't actually make it to Nottingham. It costs £20 and for that you get:
  • A weekend pass on the premium lanyard – not valid for actual con entry!
  • The UKPC 2018 con book
  • The UKPC Supporter button badge
  • A £5 donation to long-time con charity the RDA
The physical items will be sent to you shortly after the convention has closed, so expect to receive them in late October or early November. When you buy (from the webstore) you can specify whether you'd prefer an Adult, Child or Family ticket.

2) Discounted tram travel

Nottingham's tram network offers discounted travel to attendees of certain events, and the committee have managed to get this offer for people going to UK PonyCon. This will allow you a special £2 day return fare, rather than the usual £4 price. The procedure is slightly fiddly, so here's a summary:
  1. Print out and fill in this voucher (PDF).
  2. At the tram stop, buy an "Event Ticket" from the machine.
  3. Keep both voucher and ticket with you while travelling, as staff may ask to see them.
Note that this is a day return ticket, so if you're attending for the full weekend you'll need two vouchers and to buy a second ticket at the tram stop on Sunday morning.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Episode review: S8E12: "Marks for Effort"

Starlight Glimmer attempting to look serious as she drinks cocoa
This would make a great caption competition, so naturally I can't think of anything!
It really is about time I caught up with Season 8's episodes. Thank goodness for hiatuses! (Hiati? No, spellchecker, not "Haiti".) There'll be a Text Review Roundup of this ep next, then I'll get going with E13's review. Going back to "Marks for Effort", though: this one was written by Nicole Dubuc, previously seen on the season premiere. I was cautiously optimistic as I tend to like CMC episodes. Past the break, a look at whether I liked this one. It's quite short, since I really do need to get these things done.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 206: The Piper o' Dundee

Title explanation: Scottish folk song

Right! I'm back from Scotland, as you'll already know if you read yesterday's Pony Music Library post. Time to ease myself back into the wonderful world of My Little Pony fanfiction.

Read it Later story count: 331 (+1)

Just three stories once again this week, but I have plans. I can't promise anything, but I've rejigged one or two things in my schedule that should let me get back up to the traditional five from next week onwards. We shall see. Anyway, today's reviews are:

Bloomberg by ROBCakeran53
Zero Sum by TailsIsNotAlone
Spreading Your Wings by darkstone57

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 0 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Pony Music Library 54: "Kindness" (4EverfreeBrony cover)

I'm back from my holiday in Scotland (which was fantastic, apart from the ~100 midge bites) and ready to ease myself back into Pony stuff. There'll be a small Ponyfic Roundup tomorrow, but I'll start off with another PML induction.

What? "Kindness"

Who? 4EverfreeBrony

Which? Cover

When? March 2018

Why? A song that isn't even three months old wouldn't normally be considered for the Pony Music Library – but this one is special, so much so that I bought it on Bandcamp without hesitation. It's a cover of the AcoustiMandoBrony classic "Kindness" from January 2013, a song I've always liked but somehow never quite loved, despite it being about Fluttershy. This version, though, was an instant favourite right from the jangly guitar intro. 4EverfreeBrony's voice fits so well, the guitar solo is perfect, the drums add to the melody but aren't too intrusive... yeah, I do love this version. I've listened to it dozens of times already, and as such it's going straight into the PML. :)

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 205: Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard

Title explanation: current weather is thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening

Here we go: the final PR before my break. Strictly speaking, not even that, as I'll be off before this post goes live. I hope there'll be one a week on Wednesday, after which I'll try to get back to the usual weekly schedule. I hope you lot behave yourself around here while I'm gone. :P

Read it Later story count: 330 (-3)

Yes, another tiny selection this time. Was that run of five-fic weeks a flash in the pan? I don't know. I hope not. But hey, one of the fics this week is 46,000 words, much longer than those I usually read. Anyway, I've got a little list:

White Demure by Heitomos
Weight by Regidar
Apple Shampoo by Titanium Dragon

★: 0 | ★★: 3 | ★★★: 0 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Molt Down"

This will be the last TRR for a little while, owing to my imminent holiday. I do intend to do them for episodes 12 and 13, but you'll have to be patient. This episode was very popular with the text-based reviewers, rivalling even "The Break Up Break Down" on that score. Also, a belated welcome back to the Railfan Brony. After they chose the video-review route for the premiere, I thought that was it, but they've now resumed written reviews and have caught up with the season.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C+; "Welcome to adulthood, mate.")

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("one of the best episodes of S8 so far and one of the best Spike episodes altogether.")

Derpy News – very positive (graded A; "Congratulations, Josh Haber. You’re the new M.A. Larson.")

JDPrime22 – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "The possibility for future stories this sets up is incredible. Have at it, MLP crew!")

Louder Yay – very positive (4/5; "Time will tell how Spike's new wings may change him, but for now I'd consider this another very good 22 minutes of FiM.")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("my favorite episode this season so far!")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (9.5/10; "plenty of world building to expand upon and one of the biggest surprises of the season so far")

The Railfan Brony – very positive ("One of this episode's greatest strengths is that Spike feels relatable and not being constantly brought down to size")

Rainbine – wildly positive ("10/10; "This was a Masterpiece.")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("The Twilight and Spike moments in this episode were so very sweet [...] a lot of laughs")

TheDragonWarlock – very positive (graded A-; "This is an excellent Spike episode that's right up there with Gauntlet of Fire.")

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A few temporary changes (and one permanent one)

I'm going on holiday for a week this Saturday, and I'll be in some fairly remote parts of Scotland with little or no reliable internet access – so there'll be a few changes to the usual routine on Louder Yay. These temporary changes first:

Episode reviews for E12 and E13 will be considerably delayed, since I doubt I'll even see the eps until the week after next. Thank Celestia for the mid-season hiatus!

Text Review Roundup will therefore also be delayed, though the one for E11 will go up on Thursday as normal.

Ponyfic Roundup this week will be delayed until Friday or Saturday, to reduce the gap resulting from the fact that there will be no PR at all next week.

As for the permanent change: you can no longer comment on this blog using OpenID. This is not my decision – support for the facility has been withdrawn by Google. All previous OpenID comments will get anonymised – again, this is Google's doing, not mine. Your choice is now limited to Google ID, Name/URL or Anonymous.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Episode review: S8E11: "Molt Down"

Stone scale-covered Spike looking glum next to a happier-looking Smolder
Now I want to know about Smolder's brother
After a slightly shaky start, Season 8 seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, with only the unimpressive "Non-Compete Clause" interrupting a sequence of good-to-great episodes. This week, we had Josh Haber's first ep this season, as well as the prospect of a full-on Spike-isode. Those used to be a bad sign, but since "Gauntlet of Fire" the little dragon has come into his own. As for this episode...

Sunday, 27 May 2018

hawthornbunny's list of the 20 most-used titles on Fimfiction


Here's something interesting: hawthornbunny has put together a list of the most commonly used fic titles on Fimfiction. Perhaps to be expected, 14 of them are single words. Slightly to my surprise, none of them contains a character name (unless there are some OCs in there). Here's the full list, which I've edited only in terms of formatting:
1. Memories (49 fics)
2. Alone (42 fics)
3. A New Life (39 fics)

4. Broken (36 fics)
5= A Second Chance (31 fics)
5= The Trotting Dead (31 fics)
7. Destiny (26 fics)
8= The End (25 fics)
8= Lost (25 fics)
8= A Night to Remember (25 fics)
8= Redemption (25 fics)
8= Silence (25 fics)
13. Eclipse (24 fics)

14= Forgotten (23 fics)
14= Monster (23 fics)
14= Nightmares (23 fics)
14= The Pony Games (23 fics)
14= Secrets (23 fics)
14= Trapped (23 fics)
14= Wings (23 fics)
So, if you want your story to be found easily, it's probably not a great idea to call it Memories! Also, this isn't exactly a list packed with hugely popular or well-received stories. Think of your favourite fic, and it probably isn't here.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Welcome to the herd!

There was a discussion recently on Equestria Daily about what our fandom does especially well (to go with a previous piece about what we could stand to improve on), and one thing that many people mentioned was that bronies are generally very welcoming to newcomers. That's been my experience, too, and I'm very glad: I sometimes hear about fandoms where new people are almost considered second-class citizens if they don't know all there is to know from the off.

Anyway, the discussion reminded me of the GIF posted above. I don't know who made it as my Google-fu has failed me – let me know and I'll add a credit – but I used to see it everywhere when new people joined the fandom. In spite of my usual antipathy to animated avatars and the like, I make an exception for this one. It's always made me smile (smile smile) and I like to think it represents the general mindset of established fans towards newcomers.

I know there are still new bronies joining the herd in 2018 – not as many as in the old days, of course, but they're still around – so if you're one of them, then... well, see the GIF. Welcome to the herd!

Friday, 25 May 2018

Pony Music Library 53: לעוף (Fly)

Hey, would you look at that? It's less than three weeks since the last PML entry! Clearly dark magic is at work. (And why has the show forgotten about dark magic, anyway?) Today, a song written by a musician far better known for remixing other people's works – and this one isn't even in English.

What? "לעוף (Fly)"

Who? The Living Tombstone

Which? Original song

When? February 2012

Why? As far as his time making MLP music goes, The Living Tombstone is generally known as a remix artist – but there are exceptions, and this is one. What we have here is a very nice rock number in which one of Spitfire's fans (no, not Rainbow Dash!) sings about their wish that one day they could fly with their hero, despite not having wings of their own. This song is in TLT's native Hebrew, but even though I barely understand a word of that language, the track has really nice guitar sounds and an excellent beat. Into the PML it goes!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Break Up Break Down"

Another week, another batch of early-release news. This time, it appears from the online listings that Tiny Pop (the UK broadcaster) will be showing the first half of S8 on a daily basis through the half-term week and beyond. If so, we'll get to episode 13 a few days ahead of Discovery Family – which will be the first time since the S6 finale that's happened, although a combination of the leaks and Finland mean it won't be quite as big a deal this time round.

Unsurprisingly, this episode was well received, far more so than "Non-Compete Clause" was. A number of reviewers were slightly disappointed by the underlying plot's predictability, but most other aspects were heavily praised.

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "does everything a good episode Friendship is Magic needs to")

Dark Qiviut – extremely positive ("Spike and Discord are outstanding [...] the dialogue really shines [...] one of the ten best of the show altogether")

Derpy News – quite positive (graded B+; "a good episode apart from one part being telegraphed and one part extraneous")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "the jokes all hit, the flow and pace was perfect")

Louder Yay – very positive (4/5; "Despite a very well-worn "misunderstanding" plot [...] highly entertaining and well paced.")

Mega Sean 45 – very positive ("I found this episode very fun and very inspiring at the same time!")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (8/10; "while predictable, 'The Break Up Breakdown' was just the pick-me-up that Season 8 needed")

Rainbine – fairly positive ("7/10; "leagues better than last weeks episode, but nothing spectacular")

ShutterflyEQD – very positive ("the best Hearts and Hooves day special we had since a long time ago")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (graded B+; "the main story is filled with cliches, but it's still a great episode all around.")