Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: No. 1!

Here we are at the end of "Sounds of 2012", and I did – just – get the series completed before year's end after all! Not that it matters by this stage in proceedings, but here are the usual inclusion rules:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

01: The Living Tombstone – Discord (Remix)

Come on, were any of you surprised? Let's get right on to the waffly bit:

Rule 1: uploaded to YouTube 21 Jan 2012
People who don't listen to much brony music know about The Living Tombstone's remix of "Discord". There are people who barely know the fandom exists who can sing it. These days, some people even believe it's about the chat app, despite this remix having been released several years before the app existed! It's closing in on 35 million views on YouTube, but even that doesn't really get across just how massive this track became, and to a considerable extent still is. It has seven times the views of Eurobeat Brony's original, so it's unsurprising that many fans even in 2019 are surprised to find that Tombstone didn't do this first. (This misconception has been both a source of slight irritation to EB and a source of slight embarrassment to TLT.) The remix itself is classic Tombstone electronica, but however many times you hear it, it's hard to deny its staying power. The chorus is perhaps a bit dull compared with the original version, but as a dancefloor number it hits all the right notes. There's a 320k MP3 download in the video description.

And there you are! "Sounds of 2012" is a wrap! In answer to the question so many of you are desperate to know the answer to: yes, I do plan on doing "Sounds of 2013" during 2020. I won't get going on that immediately – I have to make up some ground with my S1 rewatch, for a start! – but I hope it won't be too long. Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who stuck with this series right from the beginning. :)

Monday, 30 December 2019

Worcester Shires quiz – answers!

I hope a few people had fun with this quiz, even those who didn't post comments attempting any of the questions. Here are the official answers:

Worcester Shires Hearth's Warming Quiz 2019

Q1: Whose voice was the first ever heard in Friendship is Magic?
Nicole Oliver

Q2: In "Hearth's Warming Eve", who were the three assistants to the pony tribal rulers? (1 mark for each)
Clover the Clever, Private Pansy, Smart Cookie

Q3: Who was the main interior artist on the first IDW MLP comic?
Andy Price

Q4: What is the name of Tirek's estranged brother?

Q5: In "Slice of Life", what do Celestia and Luna bicker about?
Whose turn it was to bring the present

Q6: Complete the song line: "Cupcakes, so sweet and tasty…"
"...cupcakes, don't be too hasty!"

Q7: In the 2017 film, what is the name of Queen Novo's octopus servant?

Q8: What was the name of the large convention held for a few years in France?

Q9: In the popular [Worcester meet] card game "Chase the Ace", which family are said to be cursed?
The Cakes (both the decks we use have Cakes as low-ranking cards)

Q10: Which is the only G1 pony to be included in Friendship is Magic's Mane Six with her name and design largely unchanged?

Q11: What is the name of the toy line that includes Cheese Sandwich's party tank cannon?
Guardians of Harmony

Q12: Who wrote the official MLP chapter books?
G. M. (Gillian) Berrow

Q13: In "Hurricane Fluttershy", what wing power number is required to produce a tornado?

Q14: Who are the four officially-named Our Town residents with speaking parts in "The Cutie Map", not including Starlight? (1 mark for each)
Double Diamond, Night Glider, Sugar Belle, Party Favor

Q15: Which pony was the first figure to be given away with the [UK] monthly magazine?
Pinkie Pie

Q16: After the parasprites have finally been run out of town by Pinkie's polka performance, which city does Princess Celestia say has been hit by an infestation?

Q17: Another movie question: who voices Capper?
Taye Diggs

Q18: Which School of Friendship student is terrified of confined spaces?

Q19: In the song "Pinkie's Present" from "A Hearth's Warming Tail", which character is seen operating a gramophone?
DJ-Pon3 / Vinyl Scratch

Q20: What is the very last word spoken (not sung) in Friendship is Magic?
"You." ("I know just where to send you.")

Tie-breaker! (We didn't need this, but I'll include it anyway.)

QTB: How many words are there in the fanfic My Little Dashie?

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 3 and 2

Here we go with the penultimate post of "Sounds of 2012", a series counting down the tracks voted by Everfree Radio's listeners back at the end of 2012 as being their fandom favourites of that year. For form's sake, here are the usual inclusion criteria, though anything that ranks in the top three is damn well going in anyway!

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

03: Bronyfied – Brony Metal Medley
02: AcoustiMandoBrony – Loyalty

I normally put a page break here, but I won't bother with that for this post or for the final one, as they won't end up all that long. Here we go...

Rule 1: uploaded to YouTube 1 Apr 2012
This seven-minute extravaganza from Bronyfied is pretty much what it says on the tin: a collection of fandom hits, all played in an orchestral metal style. Bronyfied called it "a sort of love letter to all the musicians in the community", and it's accompanied in the video by a collection of art pieces made specifically for this project. The eight or so songs chosen are all well known even today, ranging as they do from Eurobeat Brony's "Luna" to The Living Tombstone's "September". I'm not sure this really deserves to be number three, but it's enjoyable listening for sure. Almost inevitably, the Dropbox link given to download the song is long dead. It's interesting that Mediafire links are nearly always still working years later, whereas Dropbox links are pretty much universally not. Oh well.

Rule 1: uploaded to YouTube 24 Jan 2012
This is still, almost eight years after it was released, AcoustiMandoBrony's biggest hit by far. That may be slightly irritating to both MandoPony and Acoustic Brony (now Re:Make), who both released heaps of music after this, but I doubt it's going to change now. The first of the "Elements" series (which still lacks "Magic" to finish it off, but apparently that's coming), this is very much a paean to Rainbow Dash. The production quality here isn't all that amazing, but the song has a tremendous energy that not many other tracks can match. I can vouch for the fact that it sounds very fine live, though I've only experienced it all through once. (BUCK 2014. At UK PonyCon 2019 I had to leave after one verse to make the Pub Quiz!) There's a 320k MP3 download link (a direct one, too) in the video description.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

My Little Repeats 15: "Feeling Pinkie Keen"

"Er, Twi? You sure about this new spell o' yours?"
S1E15: "Feeling Pinkie Keen"
Written by Dave Polsky
11 Feb 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.2

The one with Pinkieus Pieicus

Thoughts: Dave Polsky makes his debut, completing the S1 lineup, and he does so with an episode that was an early source of significant brony controversy. You can see why some fans felt Pinkie's eventual convincing of Twilight over Pinkie Sense felt a bit like a "faith beats science" moment, though I've softened a little on that since Polsky's BUCK 2014 panel inluded a spirited defence of the episode. (I was at that talk, and a lot of attendees were impressed.) It still doesn't quite feel right, though at least we get plenty of good ol' Snarky!Twi first. We also get the series' first out-and-out fandom nod, with Derpy – now with deliberately derped eyes! – prominent in the aerial removals squad; the ep also sees Gummy's debut. Plus a good, fun – that fourth head – and dangerous monster in the hydra, though it was barely seen again. (Fluttershy didn't know how to calm it, either, though at least she remembered how to hop, skip and jump later.) We didn't see much more of Twi's basement lab, for that matter. Oh, and the episode also featured Twilight's well-remembered Rapidash moment. Plus she did charge the hydra, consciously channelling Rainbow Dash's bravery/stupidity, something worthy of note. While the episode does still rub me up just slightly the wrong way at times, there's a good deal of fun to be had here. Enough for three stars, when once I'd probably only have given it two.

Choice quote: Spike: "Can you do that? Can you explode twice?"

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Sonic Rainboom", an episode I like – after all, it gave this blog its name! – but not one I adore as much as some of the fandom. Will that change this time? Wait and see!

Friday, 27 December 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 277

Read it Later story count: 230 (-3)

As I've mentioned before, there will be no Ponyfic Roundup on New Year's Day. Instead, I plan on posting PR 278 on 8th January. You can find an idea of what will be in that edition at the end of this edition. And talking of this edition, I've managed to get through five stories for a change – and I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed reading every one of them. Here's the list of what's under review today:

Apple Cider Caramels by iisaw
A Faded Touch of Blue by Tofazz
Calendar Chaos by Impossible Numbers
Conversations with Eternity by Sunchaser
It Doesn't Have to End Here by Soothing Stone

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

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 6 to 4

And we're back! It's getting very near the end, as the Beatles once sang. There are no Beatles songs in Everfree Radio's fan-voted Top 100 tracks from 2012, but the bronies of seven years ago did vote for some numbers that have very much stood the test of time. Just three of them in today's post, then two next time and the Number One song in the last of all. A quick reminder of the inclusion rules:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

06: ponyphonic – Lullaby for a Princess
05: Tsyolin Befriends WoodenToaster – WoodenOverture
04: Forest Rain – Join the Herd

As usual, there's a bit more on each song, including an embedded YouTube video containing the track, after the break. Come with me!

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

My audio review of Season 9 of FiM

There will be no post tomorrow. I hope to have a "Sounds of 2012" instalment for you on Boxing Day, and then Ponyfic Roundup 277 will appear on Friday 27th December. Note that there will not be a PR the week after that; all being well it will return on 8th January 2020. Now, on to today's business...

Here's your Christmas treat! (Or possibly Christmas trick, depending.) My review of Season 9 of Friendship is Magic, touching briefly on the usual stuff: which episodes I liked, which I didn't, how Fluttershy got on... you get the idea. The video takes a little under a quarter of an hour all told. It was recorded on my phone and only given very basic editing, so I do ask for your indulgence there. Even so, I hope you will find at least some of it interesting.

For those who find it easier or preferable to read, the script I used when making the video is given past the cut. Happy Hearth's Warming!

Monday, 23 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 10 to 7

Into the Top Ten we go! Everfree Radio's countdown still contains a few more surprises before we hit the most popular song of them all that year. Today, we're down to four tracks, and while I think anything that makes it this high up a chart is pretty much notable and includable by definition, just for form's sake here are my usual inclusion rules.

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

10: ponyphonic – The Moon Rises
09: MandoPony – Picture Perfect Pony
08: Archie – Love is in Bloom (Archie remix)
07: Alex S. – Party with Pinkie [VIP]

Please continue past the cut to find YouTube embeds for the four songs featured, as well as the usual little bit of waffle.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

The Worcester Shires Hearth's Warming Quiz 2019

Last week, at the final Worcester Shires ponymeet of the year, we had a little quiz. I wrote the questions and, even though we were a little pushed for time, it all seemed to be quite well received. I hope it won't be the last quiz we have. Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you fine people. There's no prize (that went at the meet!) so it's just for fun. All the questions are to do with MLP, and most (but not all!) are to do with Friendship is Magic.

Since a couple of questions have multiple answers, the maximum number of points available is 25, or 26 with the tie-breaker. At the meet we ran the quiz for individuals rather than teams, allowed about one minute for each question, and naturally had the common rule that answers had to be from memory without resorting to resources such as Google or Fimfiction. I'll be posting the official results in about a week, so do feel free to have a go! :)

If you were at the meet, you may have an unfair advantage. On the other hand, if you weren't at the meet then Q9 may be an unfair question! :P

Worcester Shires Hearth's Warming Quiz 2019

Q1: Whose voice was the first ever heard in Friendship is Magic?

Q2: In "Hearth's Warming Eve", who were the three assistants to the pony tribal rulers? (1 mark for each)

Q3: Who was the main interior artist on the first IDW MLP comic?

Q4: What is the name of Tirek's estranged brother?

Q5: In "Slice of Life", what do Celestia and Luna bicker about?

Q6: Complete the song line: "Cupcakes, so sweet and tasty…"

Q7: In the 2017 film, what is the name of Queen Novo's octopus servant?

Q8: What was the name of the large convention held for a few years in France?

Q9: In the popular [Worcester meet] card game "Chase the Ace", which family are said to be cursed?

Q10: Which is the only G1 pony to be included in Friendship is Magic's Mane Six with her name and design largely unchanged?

Q11: What is the name of the toy line that includes Cheese Sandwich's party tank cannon?

Q12: Who wrote the official MLP chapter books?

Q13: In "Hurricane Fluttershy", what wing power number is required to produce a tornado?

Q14: Who are the four officially-named Our Town residents with speaking parts in "The Cutie Map", not including Starlight? (1 mark for each)

Q15: Which pony was the first figure to be given away with the [UK] monthly magazine?

Q16: After the parasprites have finally been run out of town by Pinkie's polka performance, which city does Princess Celestia say has been hit by an infestation?

Q17: Another movie question: who voices Capper?

Q18: Which School of Friendship student is terrified of confined spaces?

Q19: In the song "Pinkie's Present" from "A Hearth's Warming Tail", which character is seen operating a gramophone?

Q20: What is the very last word spoken (not sung) in Friendship is Magic?

Tie-breaker! (We didn't need this, but I'll include it anyway.)

QTB: How many words are there in the fanfic My Little Dashie?

Saturday, 21 December 2019

My Little Repeats 14: "Suited for Success"

Call me a fashion philistine, but I rather like some of these designs
S1E14: "Suited for Success"
Written by Charlotte Fullerton
4 Feb 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.6

The one with Fluttershy's freaky knowledge of sewing

Thoughts: A bunch of magical talking ponies have dresses made for a formal ball at a magical princess's castle. They sing about it and have fashion shows. Is that clichéd "girls' show" stuff or what? In this case, it's "what". A lovely episode, easily Rarity's finest hour to this point and still right up there almost nine years on. The other Manes learn something important, too. The Broadway-inspired song is superb both times, barring the odd "make sure that it stays within our budget" line. Fluttershy adds a new string to her bow, and it's a shame her sewing knowledge was so rarely referred to hereafter. DJ Pon-3 becomes a fandom favourite with five seconds of head-nodding. And of course there's "20 percent cooler" – a phrase devalued by overuse in recent years, but here absolutely fresh and perfect. Actually, the dialogue frequently zings: the scene with Rarity locked in her room is wonderful, and Pinkie's "Give her time..." may be one of the best-judged and best-timed lines in the entire series. Hoity Toity isn't the most three-dimensional character ["No; he's a 2D cartoon!" —Ed.], but he does a job. Not quite a flawless FiM episode, but fairly comfortably a classic and an ep that was pleasure itself to rewatch. A high four.

Choice quote: Rainbow Dash: "It needs to be about 20 percent cooler."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Feeling Pinkie Keen", the source of perhaps the first real brony fandom controversy. I have mixed feelings about it. Let's see how it does this time.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Hearth's Warming schedule

Don't take this as gospel, but I expect to slow down a bit with posting from now until the holiday period is over. My look back at "Suited for Success" should be up tomorrow morning, once I've had time to do the actual rewatch! I'll probably get a couple more "Sounds for 2012" entries in before the end of the year. If I do finish that silly ponyfic I mentioned a little while ago I'll of course mention it here. My audio review of S9 is currently being edited. I hope to have that done in the next few days, and of course I'll also post that here when it does get finished. Finally, as I said the other day, there should be one more Ponyfic Roundup before 2019 comes to an end, though there's unlikely to be more than that.

And then it'll be 2020. The first year for a decade with no new Friendship is Magic episodes on our screens. Given the current uncertainty over Pony Life, who knows where that will lead? Whatever happens, though, I fully expect to be posting my silly ramblings on Louder Yay for quite some while to come. :)

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 15 to 11

Five posts left with Sounds of 2012! That's because, from here on in, I'm going to be reducing the number of tracks I cover each time by one. So today there are five, next time there'll be four, and the final post of all will be devoted entirely to the song that Everfree Radio's listeners voted to the head of their Top 100. The usual quick reminder of my inclusion criteria first – although really everything by this point gets in under Rule 3 if nothing else.

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

15: WoodenToaster & The Living Tombstone (feat. Rina Chan) – Lost on the Moon
14: H8_Seed & WoodenToaster – Awoken
13: Forest Rain (feat. Decibelle) – Great to be Different
12: AwkwardMarina – Anthropology (Lyra's Song)
11: WoodenToaster & The Living Tombstone – Love Me Cheerilee

If you feel like accompanying me past the break, you'll find that I've written a little bit about each track, as well as embedding a video for your listening pleasure.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 276

Read it Later story count: 233 (nc)

Here we go again! I currently do expect to post PR 277 next week, but I may well have a break the following week. We'll see. For the second successive PR, I have three fics under review. And for the second successive PR, my RiL story count is steady at 233! That does, however, hide a little bit of churn, as I've added a few new fics and removed a few I don't think I'm ever likely to want to read.

Observatory Hill by Skywriter
Scootaloot by Game-BeatX14
Everyone's a Changeling by Aquillo

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

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

My Little Repeats 13: "Fall Weather Friends"

"Say, AJ, you're never gonna believe what happens to us when the show ends..."
S1E13: "Fall Weather Friends"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers
28 Jan 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.1

The one with rubber sap tapping

Thoughts: Viewers had to stick it out for three weeks for this episode, but it was worth the wait. Here we see Applejack and Rainbow Dash's long-running rivalry truly get started. The Iron Pony contest itself is great fun, with so many little touches, not least a very nice bit part for Fluttershy on scoreboard duty. (Some of it's rather less fun for Spike, though!) Then it's on to more lore: the Running of the Leaves. I love that Twilight's race number is 42. Applejack's battle with Rainbow Dash is always very watchable, though Dash does seem to bend the rules rather more than AJ does. Pinkie and Spike add some hilarity in their commentary balloon. The episode is visually lovely by S1 standards, with the reds and golds of the autumn leaves bringing a beautiful look to the woods. As for the finish, making Twilight come in fifth is so much better than the clichéd alternative of having her win the race. I've always found this episode very satisfying, and I haven't changed that opinion at all.

Choice quote: Celestia: "Fall is one of my favourite seasons."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Suited for Success", which is an episode I've been looking forward to reaching since the start. Will it live up to my high hopes?

Monday, 16 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 21 to 16

At one point I was hoping to finish Sounds of 2012 by the end of 2019. I may not quite manage that, but I'm going to have got reasonably close, at least. On we speed today with Everfree Radio's Top 100 of that year! A quick reminder of the inclusion criteria:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

21: MandoPony – Sweet Apple Acres
20: AcoustiMandoBrony – A Long Way from Equestria
19: Aviators (feat. Bronyfied) – One Last Letter
18: Forest Rain / Various – The Massive Smile Project
17: Friendship is Witchcraft – The Gypsy Bard (Extended)
16: ShadyVox – Pony Rock Anthem

Come with me to the casbah past the break for a little bit more about each of these songs, with pointers to HQ versions where I can.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

My Little Repeats 12: "Call of the Cutie"

"What do ya mean, meme faces aren't a thing yet?"
S1E12: "Call of the Cutie"
Written by Meghan McCarthy
7 Jan 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.0

The one with ultra pony roller derby

Thoughts: Into 2011 now, with Meghan McCarthy's first second FiM writing credit! This is where we find out properly about cutie marks, and even more importantly, where the CMC get together – albeit not until late on. (Though Apple Bloom seems to abandon Twist after this episode, poor thing...) We see AB demonstrating earth pony mouthwriting, and then... oh, hello Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, how glorious to see you, not. It's quite fun to see the bigger mares trying to help Apple Bloom get her cutie mark, though AB's desperation is a little saddening by the end. "Cuteceñeara" is a bit of a mouthful, but the party scene itself is fun. We hear the CMC instrumental theme for the first time; I have a vague memory that William Anderson didn't like it that much, but I do. This is a nice, solid episode that perhaps works better in retrospect than it did at the time, when we didn't know any of the fillies except Apple Bloom – although Sweetie Belle's squeaky voice in particular is quite startling now!

Choice quote: Bon Bon: "I didn't put those in my bag!"

New rating: ★★

One little extra, which is down here as I don't have a source: I've heard that the working title for this episode was "Call of Cutie", but that Hasbro vetoed such a blatant pun on the
Call of Duty games as they weren't suitable for kids. Hence the addition of "the".

Next up is "Fall Weather Friends", which I've always enjoyed a lot. I remember going back to watch it after the utter disappointment that was "Non-Compete Clause".

Friday, 13 December 2019

Ponyfic writing update

All being well, I'll have my look back at "Call of the Cutie" up tomorrow. I'd like to get on with Sounds of 2012 in the next few days, too. For now, though, I'll fill in by mentioning that I've acquired a cheap Bluetooth keyboard (one of these) after seeing it for £4.50 in a local charity shop. It works surprisingly well given the price, it runs on two AAA batteries which seem to last ages, and it's quiet enough that I can happily use it on a coffee shop table without disturbing other customers. Now that GDocs works offline, it's pretty fuss-free.

I've been using the opportunity to do a little bit of ponyfic writing. I tend to just sit down and tap away, and see what emerges. Most of it will never see the light of day, but I do have one that seems promising. It's just a light, silly little piece in which a union official working on Equestrian Railways visits Twilight to explain why the state of the rail infrastructure across the land makes it impossible for her members to continue working, and so they've gone on strike. This isn't exactly The Railway Ponies: Highball, but I'm having fun with it nevertheless.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 275

Read it Later story count: 233 (nc)

It's election day tomorrow here in the UK, so I suppose I should have read lots of political fics or stories featuring Mayor Mare or something. But I haven't, and while part of that reason is that I don't want my whole time online to be full of people (or ponies) yelling about politics, the main reason is that I just didn't think about it. :P Just the three to look at this time, and they are:

Twilight Sparkle Lays an Egg by Georg
Hang by AShadowOfCygnus
Hair of the Sister Who Bit You by Rao the Red Sun

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

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

My Little Repeats 11: "Winter Wrap Up"

Rather serves you right for your attitude, Spike...
S1E11: "Winter Wrap Up"
Written by Cindy Morrow
24 Dec 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.4

The one with Twilight's "Nopenopenope" backwards run

Thoughts: Christmas Eve 2010 was quite an occasion for the nascent MLP:FiM fandom. We got so much lore about how much work ponies actually do to clean up winter – by choice, given that Canterlot uses magic. (And so does Twilight later on, much to AJ's annoyance!) It is really interesting – and very S1! – to see the details of how everything's done. Mayor Mare even gets a decent-sized role, plus we get bouncy grinning Lyra in the crowd! To be honest, though, I find Twilight's succession of failures a tiny bit sad to watch, especially when Spike outright laughs at her. Thankfully her organisational skills eventually find her a place, though far in the future ("Slice of Life") Amethyst Star will hint that maybe she isn't entirely happy at having been deposed as Ponyville's best organiser! One tiny, lovely touch: Twilight makes the bird whistle by magically controlling it. Later on, Fluttershy merely needs to wink. Buuuut we all know that, to many, this episode is all about the song. It must have been amazing in those pre-leak days to have a fully-fledged musical number of this quality sprung on you after little more than silly Pinkie ditties in previous episodes. I really like the instrumental reprise, too. This would have been a three-star episode without it, but the song is so good as to add an extra one.

Choice quote: Rarity: "Oh, Spike! It's not so bad. Maybe the birds can use it as a..." Spike: "An outhouse?"

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Call of the Cutie", an episode that in hindsight is far more important than it may have appeared at the time. I remember being a bit meh about it the first time around.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

S9 audio review coming soon...ish!

A friend asked me a little while ago whether I was going to do a Season 9 review in the same way I did one for Season 8. I thought about it briefly and decided that yes, I would. At the time I was asked, the online world was still swirling with rumours and counter-rumours about the future of YouTube creativity, but now that that's died down a bit I've decided to make the piece anyway.

I've done the basic recording, and the raw file comes to about 15 minutes, which I think is reasonable. It will take me a little while to edit, though I'm not going to do that to pro standards by any means, and then I'll upload it. Hopefully it'll be before Hearth's Warming, at least. I also intend to provide a text transcript for those who find audio a problem or would simply prefer to read.

Please note that this is a season review, not a show review. I may eventually do a piece that encompasses the entirety of Friendship is Magic, but you really shouldn't hold your breath for that. What you'll be getting here is the usual stuff: best and worst episodes, a quick look at the songs, how Fluttershy did, that kind of thing. I've also stuck in a brief section on Rainbow Roadtrip.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

My Little Repeats 10: "Swarm of the Century"

About time I got back to these! For anyone joining me here: these are not meant to be full-featured reviews, and I assume that readers have seen not only the episode featured but the entire series. (Or, at least, that they don't care about spoilers any more.) I'm not really interested in a blow-by-blow account of every single scene, more in how the episode strikes me after all these years have passed. I'd love to know how you feel about the episode now, too!

Dash wouldn't be this affectionate towards a creature again until she adopted Tank
S1E10: "Swarm of the Century"
Written by M. A. Larson
17 Dec 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.8

The one with "Princess Celest".

Thoughts: Mr Larson's debut! Not one of Fluttershy's greatest moments, given she's the one who stops the parasprite problem being resolved after Applejack's herding. Mind you, not Pinkie's either: whatever the girls say later, she could easily have explained herself properly at the time instead of rambling on about trombones! Still, her Parasprite Polka remains a memorable performance. Interesting what a big deal a visit from Celestia was at this point. Carrot Top's "We couldn't fit it all in!" has gone down in fandom folklore. I think this is the first time we see Rainbow Dash's cloud house; but I think wrongly! See comments. Even so, it'll never stop being, well, awesome. First mention of Fillydelphia too, yes? The parasprites eating the words somewhat anticipates Discord doing something similar a few seasons later. All in all, one of the silliest, most cartoony episodes of the early days, but one that's a good deal of fun almost throughout – as long as you can overlook the slightly rickety structure. Of the episode, that is. Not of Ponyville. Though now I think about it...

Choice quote: Pinkie Pie: "Me? I'm not the ruiner! I'm the ruinee! Or is it ruiness? ...ruinette?"

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Winter Wrap Up", where of course the first
big song appears. The interesting thing for me will be seeing how the episode beyond the song holds up.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 27 to 22

Today, "Sounds of 2012" is moving into the top quarter of Everfree Radio's Top 100 fan-voted songs from seven years ago. Below you can see what's covered this time and read a bit more about each track, but as usual I'll begin by giving you my criteria for inclusion:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

27: The L-Train – A Symphonic Metal Tribute to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
26: Twitch – Flutterborn
25: The Living Tombstone – Octavia's Overture
24: The Living Tombstone feat. Lauren G. – Magic
23: Dasha and The Living Tombstone – Good Girl
22: All Levels at Once – Pony Should Pony Pony

I expect most of you know the form by now, but for those who don't – or who need reminding – I'll have videos and a bit of writing about each song after the page break.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 274

Read it Later story count: 233 (-1)

And we're back! I read one story last week when I wasn't feeling very well, and I added another four this week. That means there are five fics under the microscope this time around – the first time for a little while that I've managed that. I'll also quickly remind folks that my star ratings are largely a measure of how much I enjoyed reading a story, not an attempt to measure the story's objective literary worth. With that in mind, let's get going!

Keeping Your Hooves on the Ground by InsertAuthorHere
Save the Records by TheBandBrony
The Derpy Files by Soge
The Gift of Winter by Banana Prince
RadioActivity by Zh3sh1re

★: 0 | ★★: 4 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

My Little Repeats 9: "Bridle Gossip"

This is a noticeably detailed and colourful episode for so early on
S1E09: "Bridle Gossip"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers
10 Dec 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.7

The one with "Appletini" riding Rainbow Dash.

Thoughts: Hasbro's veto on exploring more of zebra culture means Zecora, who debuts here, is the only one in show canon, and indeed nearly the only one in all official stories.* One oddity near the start: AJ tells her sister not to mention the name Zecora, then almost immediately does so herself! Anyway, Twilight is pretty solid in this (and amusingly S1-snarky), though her Super Naturals stubbornness feels a little forced. It's also a notably good pre-CMC ep for Apple Bloom – but the other Manes are pretty thick: not even knowing what a zebra is? One of my favourite bits of lore, though: the Everfree forest "ain't natural" because its plants, animals and clouds move without pony intervention. A real shame that stuff got left behind later in the series. It's the Poison Joke stuff that everyone remembers, of course. Probably fair to say the show team wouldn't have risked Twilight's floppy horn problem if they'd known about the fandom at the time! Flutterguy is funny to this day, especially her song. First mention of "Rainbow Crash", too. And Applejack gives us a "Thank Celestia" at one point – one for the "Is Tia a goddess?" debate, I guess. Still, overall I think this episode has dated slightly. It's still amusing, and "Don't judge a book by its cover" is a fair, if hackneyed, moral – but it doesn't fit together quite well enough to feel like a classic. Three stars, then.
* Braze, the male zebra in the Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare chapter book, is the only other one I can think of who gets a speaking part.

Choice quote: Spike: "I got nothin'. Twilight Sparkle. I mean seriously, I can't even work with that."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Swarm of the Century", the debut of one M. A. Larson. Another I haven't rewatched for years and only vaguely remember as "a bit silly".

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Flashfic 150 is go for December!

For once I'm remembering to promote this thing, so Flashfic 150's December contest is now live. The prompt this month is "Things Unwritten".

Very briefly, FF150 works like this. You write a story of no more than 150 words in response to that month's prompt. After three weeks, the contest closes. Anyone who wishes is welcome to provide feedback on the entries. I read them all and pick a winner. That winner gets to choose the following month's prompt. (You can't win two months running, which also means you can't win if you pick the prompt.) There is very deliberately no prize beyond that.

Stories must be E- or T-rated, must be related to MLP and cannot be crossovers (because judging those is near-impossible). Anyone with a Fimfiction account is welcome to join the Flashfic group, and anyone in the group is welcome to participate. There is no compulsion to enter regularly – if you just want to write occasionally, that's entirely fine. In theory the Flashfic group can also be used to discuss flashfic in general, but in practice it's almost entirely about these little contests.

At the last count, we had 152 members in the group. Only a minority are regular participants, but if the concept appeals then you'd be more than welcome to join their number!

Saturday, 30 November 2019

My Little Repeats 8: "Look Before You Sleep"

"Rarity, do y'all realise what we're startin' here?"
S1E08: "Look Before You Sleep"
Written by Charlotte Fullerton
3 Dec 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.4

The one with Truth or Dare.

Thoughts: Another new writer joins the team – in fact, only two more would be added during S1. This is an episode that in the past was widely disliked for being "too girly", and I wasn't a huge fan. Now? I like it rather more. It's the real kick-off for the long-running Applejack v Rarity sparkiness, for a start. (Though AJ using "y'all" in the singular still sounds odd.) I like the little scientific bit about why being inside that tree in a thunderstorm is okay. Twilight's wide-eyed enthusiasm about the slumber party is really cute, plus we get an early, pre-fandom Parental Bonus in her book's title. Twi also introduces us all to the legend of the Headless Horse. Although not Rarity's first "Oh. It. Is. On" (that was "Boast Busters") this is the one most people remember, thanks to the funny pillow fight sequence. The other three Mane Sixers don't appear at all. I'd classify this episode as simply nice – a gentle, domestic story with plenty of warmth, something that S1 often did pretty darn well.

Choice quote: Rarity: "It is a ghost story. They're all made up."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Bridle Gossip", another popular "gateway drug" to FiM as a whole. It's a very long time since I've seen it, so I have no idea how it'll hit me now.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 32 to 28

Still not feeling great, so have another pre-prepared post. I'm pleased with myself for having a small stock of these ready – if only I were like PaulAsaran and could say the same for Ponyfic Roundup! Anyway...

Here we are again with another "Sounds of 2012" post. To remind anyone who's forgotten, this is a series wherein I look at the songs that Everfree Radio's listeners voted into the Top 100 tracks released in 2012. As ever, a quick reminder of the criteria for inclusion:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

32: Lenich & Kirya – Pinkie's Brew Russian Gypsy Jazz
31: Aviators – Friendship
30: The Living Tombstone & Bronyfied – Stuck in Time
29: PrinceWhateverer ft. Liquid Cobalt and ISMBOF – Between Fairytales and Happy Endings
28: Assertive Fluttershy – Boooring!

Just the five songs featured here today, but beyond the cut you'll find videos of them all, as well as where (if anywhere!) you can pick the songs up in better-than-YouTube quality. Let's go!

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

My Little Repeats 7: "Dragonshy"

Where's Ponyfic Roundup? Well, I haven't been feeling well off and on recently and have only finished one story, which isn't enough for a PR! I'll bring the feature back as normal next Wednesday. Since I had this MLR piece ready to go, you're getting that instead today. Sorry for any disappointment.

Talk about eye
S1E07: "Dragonshy"
Written by Meghan McCarthy
26 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.4

The one with Angel kicking his carrot.

Thoughts: The first adventure since the premiere, Meghan McCarthy's debut and and Fluttershy's first real Crowning Moment of Awesome. Before that, though, we get the A Team-style montage, one of the show's funnest. Then it's off up the mountain. Flutters is a bit over-the-top timid even for S1 – but Dash isn't very nice to her, especially given that they go way back. (Okay, we don't know that yet.) Still, 'Shy is the one who confronts the dragon and stares (though not yet Stares) it down when it really matters, and that is something nopony can ever take away from her. The others aren't much help in the cave, and it's decidedly not Rarity's finest hour. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene about two minutes in, we first see Lyra sitting human-like on a bench – though she's with a blue earth pony, not Bon Bon! (The two are seen chatting shortly thereafter, though.) Also seen: Angel being a pain, Rainbow saluting and Rarity being incompetent at noughts and crosses. I do think the gang are a bit mean-spirited to Dash at the end, though, scaring her so close to the ball-bouncing record. But it's a minor problem in a generally excellent episode, to my mind the first classic ep.

Choice quote: Fluttershy: "I guess I forgot to jump."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Look Before You Sleep", which I used to find dull but have warmed to considerably in recent years. Let's see whether that continues.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 38 to 33

The YouTube concerns have, if not gone away, then at least calmed down for the moment, until everyone finds out what's actually going to happen in January. With that in mind, I might as well go back to "Sounds of 2012" and the Everfree Radio Top 100 for that year, and see how far I can get before everything falls apart – if, and it's a big if, that ends up happening at all. I'm going to be sticking to the same criteria for inclusion, so a quick reminder:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

38: MandoPony – Shining Armor
37: Aviators – Loyalty (Aviators Remix)
36: Alex S. – Ultimate Sweetie Belle
35: Aviators – The Fear of Flight
34: All Levels at Once – Changeling
33: Forest Rain – Hay Ms. Derpy

Past the cut you'll find a YouTube video (oh yes!) of each of the half-dozen songs from this instalment, plus the usual waffle and info on how to get a better-quality version of each track.

Monday, 25 November 2019

UK PonyCon issues budget breakdown

Usual disclaimer: I am not UK PonyCon staff
The graphic above was issued by UK PonyCon yesterday. I was very pleased to see it, as I've thought for a long time that organisations such as conventions should be as financially transparent as is practical. Given that venues and suppliers tend not to be keen on doing their negotiations in public, expecting a pound-by-pound breakdown is excessive. BronyScot did just that in its earliest days, but that's not at all the norm. A percentage breakdown as published by UKPC seems a good option.

It may be interesting for any readers involved with convention organising to look at the graphic and compare how it stacks up with the cons they know. The thing that stands out immediately to me is that venue costs absolutely dwarf anything else. Audiovisual costs alone are double those incurred by the events team, and venue hire itself accounts for fully half of the entire UKPC budget. This underlines why choosing the right venue for the con is so important, and why it can't be rushed. Much as we all want to know, we do need to wait!

Something that isn't added to the cost is hiring a third-party ticketing provider. UK PonyCon, unlike a lot of similar events, does not charge a booking fee – so a ticket this year with a face value of £37 cost exactly £37 to purchase. Of course, there are still banking and PayPal costs to consider (see the top of the graphic) but I think UKPC's approach has worked well over the years. It's certainly nice from an attendee's point of view not to have 5% or so slapped on top of what you thought you were paying!

This all adds up to a lot of money. Of course, the precise figure isn't in the public domain, but you can get a very, very rough idea by considering ticket prices and attendee numbers and making some semi-educated guesses. At any rate, it's certainly several tens of thousands of pounds. It's widely accepted that BUCK's expenditure ran into six figures, but that con aside UKPC has the biggest budget of any British MLP convention in the fandom's history. That means the con absolutely has to be run carefully by people who know what they're doing. Happily, I feel completely reassured on that score.

Anyway, I congratulate UK PonyCon on producing this graphic; I think it's an excellent balance between transparency and commercial realism. I would like to see this sort of thing become absolutely standard for all cons, all over the world, with a few appropriate tweaks in parts of the globe where conventions are run in a different way. I'd certainly like to see both BronyScot and Griffish Isles issue something similar. Your move, folks.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

My Little Repeats 6: "Boast Busters"

It was only then that Twilight realised she'd mixed up the milk and the vodka
S1E06: "Boast Busters"
Written by Chris Savino
19 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 6.6

The one with Spike's moustache.

Thoughts: Chris Savino's name is mud these days, but he wrote two early FiM episodes, of which this is the first. Interestingly for an ep that's now remembered fairly fondly by many, it has the lowest IMDb score by some distance up to this point in the series. Anyway, this is of course where we first meet the Great and Powerful Trixie, who is immensely irritating in her magical tussles with other ponies, even allowing for her showmare status. We also get our first real insight into Twilight having exceptional magical talent, though we're still a while away from having cutie marks properly explained. Her feats of magical music and telekinesis to calm the Ursa Minor remain highly impressive all these years on. (Mind you, it's Spike who accidentally and indirectly caused it to be there in the first place!) Snips and Snails turn up, and are just the "irritating boy" characters they remain for many seasons – though they do wander into the Everfree Forest at night; the place is already losing its "impossibly terrifying" reputation from the opener. On the plus side, the ep sees Rarity's first "Oh, It. Is. On." The door gag in the library is also one of the funniest. The moral of the episode is an interesting one, too – but somehow this feels like an episode whose parts don't quite gel into a smoothly flowing whole. They're not quite there yet. A upper-end two for me, though I'm sure some will rate it higher.

Choice quote: Trixie: "Was there ever any doubt?"

New rating: ★★

Next up is "Dragonshy", which was the episode where I was first hit by the realisation that this was something special, beyond just "a fun cartoon". Does it hold up for me now?

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Dramatic reading by Scribbler et al of It Doesn't Matter Now

And the very next post after talking about the future of YouTube videos features... a YouTube video. Suffice to say I downloaded this one as soon as I saw it!

This came entirely out of the blue. Scribbler mentioned to me on Twitter a little while ago that It Doesn't Matter Now was one of her favourite stories, but I didn't imagine that was any more than a nice comment. And then, yesterday, this appeared! I am very pleased indeed with how it's turned out. Scribbler narrates, Illya Leonov voices the Spirit Pony and Quirky Craft voices Pinkie. I think they all three do a superb job with the text and really get across the atmosphere of the piece. A huge thank you to all of them! :)

Friday, 22 November 2019

The future of "Sounds of 2012"

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, and possibly even if you have, you'll probably have heard about YouTube creators' concerns regarding new rules. The signal:noise ratio has been quite poor, but the thing is now starting to have tangible effects for our community – for example, Sim Gretina briefly made all their videos private. Though that decision has now been reversed, it may only be a temporary stay of execution, depending on how things pan out in practice.

Although it's hardly the most important bit of fallout, it does have a bearing on "Sounds of 2012", since the vast majority of songs I feature are found on YouTube. True, some of them are also available on artists' Bandcamps or similar, but a lot are not – and for all the reasons I've mentioned before, I'm not usually keen on embedding videos from third-party re-uploaders unless I'm fairly confident they have the original artist's blessing. (Or unless they're stupidly famous.)

I'll keep a watching brief for now and see how many YouTubers do decide to blank out their channels. I suspect it won't actually be a huge number, but I do think it may include some big names – as we're seeing here. I also suspect that the implementation of the new rules in practice won't quite be as terrifying as some are suggesting. I mean, how many people actually take much notice of the penalties listed in the type of software EULA that's existed for decades?

Of course, that the obvious way to make sure you keep access to these videos is to download them from YouTube while they're still there – something that is itself in breach of YouTube's existing regulations, even though nearly everyone does it. Why does life have to be so ironic?

Thursday, 21 November 2019

My Little Repeats 5: "Griffon the Brush Off"

Only in Equestria could a dragon burrowing through a cake be considered acceptable
S1E05: "Griffon the Brush Off"
Written by Cindy Morrow
12 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.6

The one with the "Junior Speedsters" chant.

Thoughts: Until S5, Cindy Morrow's FiM writing debut had an interesting moral: that, regrettably, it's sometimes necessary to cut ties with toxic friends permanently. "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone" changed that by redeeming Gilda; I've never been quite sure how I feel about that. Back to this episode, and it sees the effective start of Rainbow and Pinkie's friendship (including a self-referential joke about having no fingers to high-five with), as well as the birth of the "You can't outrun Pinkie Pie" meme. The contrast between Pinkie's concern for Fluttershy and Gilda making the latter cry is very noticeable – though it seems a little odd that Dash would even contemplate the prank, given we find out later this season that she's known 'Shy since fillyhood. As for Gilda herself, she's little better than a bully here (and a thief) and she doesn't engender the sympathy that "Griffonstone" would do for her years later. The big twist – that Rainbow set up the party pranks – is nice, though having it be "dumb luck" that Gilda set them all off strains credulity. Dash's speech saying she'd rather be "Queen Lame-o" than have a bully for a friend is good, though. I've slightly warmed to the episode overall now, hence the three-star rating.

Choice quote: Fluttershy to Pinkie: "I'm a year older than you."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Boast Busters", which I've never been a massive fan of as I didn't like early-series Trixie – though will I change my assessment looking back from several years of StarTrix fun?

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 273

Read it Later story count: 234 (+2)

You'll note that the number of fics on my RiL list is just beginning to creep up again. I shall do my level best to do something about that, though it may just take the form of having another clear-out! The long-term target I mentioned ages ago of eventually having the list steady at around 100 stories remains unchanged. And no, I haven't yet decided what to do when the Pony Life fics start coming in! Anyway, another three today:

The Changeling Queen by Wanderer D
Birthday Cards by Roundabout Recluse
Dear Princess Celestia, by Shakespearicles

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Griffish Isles ticket details announced!

The Manchester-based Griffish Isles convention, which for next year has expanded to two days (9/10 May) and has a new venue (the Pyramid Hotel) has announced that tickets will go on sale on Saturday 23rd November at midday UK time. A few people already have tickets, as they were doing pre-sales at UK PonyCon (and maybe BronyScot; I'm not sure), but for most people, Saturday is when they'll have their chance. Here's how the ticket prices stack up for attendees; vendor ticket applications will be handled separately.
Adult Standard Weekend: £45
VIP ticket (limited) : £95
Golden Ticket (two only) : £500
Saturday only: £38
Sunday only: £18
Foals (under-12s) free with paying adults; must leave by 6pm
Carers also free
The above prices do not include the booking fee; if you order a ticket in person at a Lancashire Brony event, that will be waived. Here are a couple more details from the Twitter thread that was how I found out about this:
  • VIP tickets include T Shirt, Front two row seating in mane theatre, early access and additional perks as per previous years.
  • Golden Tickets include dedicated front row seating in the mane theatre, along with personal thanks from the conference Chair for them helping to make the convention a success. 
The basic weekend ticket price is about what I'd expected: it's a little bit more than UK PonyCon was this year (£37) but then UKPC has economies of scale. The disparity between Saturday and Sunday prices seems very wide (cf UKPC: Sat £25, Sun £20) which leads me to wonder what the difference in scheduling will be like; I'm assuming Saturday's events will go on quite a way into the night.

As for the Golden Tickets? Well. £500 will be the single most expensive ticket in British MLP convention history – from memory, the Celestia tickets at BUCK were somewhere in the £300-£350 range. And those got you a lot of perks. The Golden Tickets are so dear that I can only think they're intended for people who feel like making a statement of how much GI means to them. I'm a little bemused, if I'm honest.

I attended Griffish Isles last year and had a good time. Some of my concerns in 2019 still exist, and I'll be watching particularly closely to see whether the sometimes poor communications (especially regarding the con's website) have improved since last year. It's less likely that I'll actually attend in 2020, as I have a holiday only a few weeks away, but it's not impossible. Naturally, I hope Griffish Isles 2020 is a happy, successful event!

Monday, 18 November 2019

My Little Repeats 4: "Applebuck Season"

S1 Twilight: "I'm surrounded by idiots!"
S1E04: "Applebuck Season"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers
5 Nov 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.9

The one with Rainbow's first "so awesome!" face.

Thoughts: The the first solo credit for one of FiM's best-regarded writers. We start out in Sweet Apple Acres, which back then was enormous, and Big Mac actually gets to use words. AJ calls herself "the loyalest of friends", which maybe was inspiration for a certain Friendship is Witchcraft joke. The stampede is an odd early-series event, especially the cow talking to Applejack afterwards – even if we do get what's almost the Bonanza theme! Other old-feeling stuff includes Pinkie deferring to Applejack as a superior baker. (Though in the event it leads to the dreaded "baked bads"... and, many years later, to Derpy's canon name of Muffins!) I think this is the first time we see Lyra and Bon Bon standing together, when AJ is dragging her trophy away. Anyway, Twilight (who can now teleport with ease!) cajoling AJ to get over her stubborn pride is a simple plot, but one that works quite well for this stage in the series. We even get a bit of slapstick with Applejack and Rainbow and the contraption intended to launch Dash – who calls AJ "Ponyville's best athlete"; she'd have second thoughts about that a little way down the line! Then there's the famous bunny stampede: "The horror! The horror!" Oh, and the first mule joke. So although a notch short of a classic, "Applebuck Season" is a good watch that still holds up fairly well.

Choice quote: Twilight (again, I know!) : "AJ? I think you're beating a dead... tree."

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Griffon the Brush Off", which apart from having one of the most commonly misspelt episode titles is also decidedly not amongst my favourites. We'll see whether that changes!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Season 9 – the UK of Equestria rankings

For the very last time, at least in the Friendship is Magic era, the members of UK of Equestria have been giving their ranked lists of their favourite and... less favourite episodes of the season. Since there were two double-headers this season, there were 24 episodes in the list – Rainbow Roadtrip did not count as it's not officially part of the season and doesn't have an episode number.

We had 13 voters, exactly the same as for the half-time vote. As usual, I've divided the episodes into five tiers, going by their mean rankings. An episode with a mean better than fifth gets five stars, from there to 10 gets four, and so on. My own rankings are in brackets after each episode name. Here we go...

1. The Ending of the End (5)
2. The Last Problem (10)

3. Frenemies (1)
4. Between Dark and Dawn (9)
5. The Big Mac Question (3)
6. Sparkle's Seven (2)
7. A Horse-Shoe In (7)
8. The Summer Sun Setback (4)
9. The Beginning of the End (6)

10. Student Counsel (15)
11. She Talks to Angel (8)
12. The Last Crusade (14)
13= Common Ground (11)
13= A Trivial Pursuit (22)
15. Dragon Dropped (19)

16. Growing Up is Hard to Do (16)
17. The Last Laugh (17)
18. The Point of No Return (21)
19. Going to Seed (18)
20. Uprooted (20)
21. She's All Yak (23)
22. Daring Doubt (13)
23. Sweet and Smoky (12)

24. 2, 4, 6, Greaaat (24)

Number of times each episode placed first
5: The Last Problem
4: Frenemies
3: The Ending of the End
1: The Beginning of the End

Number of times each episode placed last
6: 2, 4, 6, Greaaat
2: Growing Up is Hard to Do
1: Going to Seed
1: The Last Crusade
1: The Point of No Return
1: Sweet and Smoky
1: A Trivial Pursuit

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Growing Up is Hard to Do
2. Sparkle's Seven
3. The Summer Sun Setback

Least controversial
1. The Ending of the End
2. Between Dark and Dawn
3. Daring Doubt

"The Ending of the End" was a clear victor, being the only episode that all 13 voters placed in their top seven. No other ep even had unanimous top-half placings. The fandom's doubts about the S9 epilogue were fairly firmly squashed on UK of E – although there was a small cluster of voters (including me) who placed it mid-table, it still gained enough top spots to take second position with some ease.

At the bottom, that cheerleading episode was a predictable wooden-spooner, though two people did include it in their top tens. "Sweet and Smoky" was next, to my continuing disappointment, with "Daring Doubt" ranked between 13th and 23rd by every single voter. There wasn't a noticeable gap between how the two halves of this season were received, though there was a slight skewing due to the finale and epilogue's popularity.

A notable feature of the S9 rankings was the wild variation in opinion given to some episodes. "Growing Up is Hard to Do" was ranked third by one person and dead last by another. "The Last Crusade" had almost as wide a spread, from fifth to 24th. One voter ranked "Frenemies down in 20th spot, while another had "A Trivial Pursuit" up in fifth. Even "Sparkle's Seven" received several rankings in the mid-to-low teens.

Friday, 15 November 2019

My Little Repeats 3: "The Ticket Master"

Enough G4.5 speculation for the moment. Let's get back to the show that's the reason most of us are in the MLP fandom in the first place.

The sort of expression we got so much less of from later-series Twi
S1E03: "The Ticket Master"
Written by Amy Keating Rogers and Lauren Faust
29 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.2

The one with oatmeal.

Thoughts: This episode started out as an 11-minute script in the Show Bible, then was expanded with AKR's help to 22 for broadcast. (Thanks to Mike Cartoon Pony for that.) Anyway, it's a pretty stupid setup, really: why would Celestia send Twilight just two tickets in the first place? For the Grand Galloping Gala, no less, which first appears here. Early Instalment Weirdness applies: Spike doesn't want any of that "girly, frilly, frou-frou nonsense" and there's some odd levitation right at the end. Still, Fluttershy singing the theme tune (the start of the then-unreleased extended version, at that!) is adorable. Two rather forgettable little Pinkie ditties, too. We get our first sight of Prince Blueblood in Rarity's vision, though (perhaps thankfully!) we learn nothing of his character just yet. This episode does contain a favourite early scene of mine, though: when Twi is picking the petals off the flower, her stomach rumbles... and she eats the petals. A nice reminder that in S1, these were very much horses; see also the restaurant having piles of hay instead of chairs. The Benny Hill-esque chase scene is actually quite funny, and it ends with Twilight first teleportation – awkwardly, and apparently not even knowing it would happen! Overall, though? It does feel a little stretched at 22 minutes, and the plot is all a bit obvious. I think a high two-star rating is about right.

Choice quote: Rarity: "Twilight! It's raining." Twi: "No. Really?"

New rating: ★★

Next up is "Applebuck Season", which many fans cite as their first hunch that things were really going to come together on this show.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

So then, Pony Life

Well, this came almost out of nowhere, apart from a couple of very vague hints in the last few days. My Little Pony: Pony Life is on the way for 2020! According to the Hasbro press release quoted on EqD, the new character designs (also shown in the EqD post) are chibi-inspired, while the show "looks at the funny side of friendship". The series will centre on Sugarcube Corner and will feature mysterious potions. The recently-redesigned toys are associated with the new series, and they will apparently be available in "select retailers" in December, at least in North America.

Okay, before I go any further, I want to mention that I have never watched Teen Titans Go! Why am I saying this? Because about every third comment I've seen thus far about Pony Life has included a TTG reference, usually unfavourable, and I'm getting just a bit frustrated with seeing it mentioned again and again and again. It means nothing to me and in all honesty, it's already boring me. Other cartoons exist, and I'd be much more interested if anyone had some thoughts about other shows that Pony Life may have taken some inspiration from.

Pony Life is very clearly not G5. That shouldn't even need saying, but apparently it does. The Mane Six and Spike are still present (and voiced by the same VAs), the world is apparently the same, and so on. I think there is a case for calling this G4.5, since it's based on a significantly redesigned toyline and it's a different approach for the series. Whether that will stick I don't know, since all we've seen so far are a few still drawings and this trailer – most of which features the toys rather than the cartoons.

The choice of music for the video is interesting: Lizzo's "Good as Hell". I'm fairly sure Friendship is Magic would never have used the word "hell" in a trailer, especially repeatedly as this song does. Whether that's a deliberate hint of a change in direction, who knows? The song is the clean edit, unsurprisingly: for example, the line "Walk your fine self out the door" is actually "Walk your fine ass out the door" in Lizzo's original. Amusingly, the relevant word is at exactly the same point we see a close-up of Applejack's flank. Coincidence? Yeah, sure it is.

So, will I watch Pony Life? Well, yes – at least at first. It's not going to replace FiM in my affections, I'm certain of that, but then FiM was a once-in-a-blue-moon show for me. But as some cute, funny stuff to fill the gap between now and the movie in autumn 2021, I think it could be fine. If they start filling it with toilet humour or something, then I'll switch off, but I will at least give it a fair chance. And even if it's appalling, My Little Pony has survived all kinds of stuff since the 1980s. It will survive this. I'd like it to do a little more and actually be entertaining, of course!

Edit: an interesting point made by Inkan1969 on EqD: in the pictures released there, the title card shows the ponies with coloured outlines. Every other picture, and the video, shows them with black outlines. Now I've had it pointed out, I can't unsee it. (For what it's worth, I think black outlines work better, perhaps because they remind me of what most of the IDW comic artists used.)

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 272

Read it Later story count: 232 (nc)

Here we go again! Another three stories this week, two slightly longer than I usually review here and one very short one.

Stuck by Callisto
The Best and The Worst by Firesight
Maybe Tomorrow by Baal Bunny

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

My Little Repeats 2: "Friendship is Magic, part 2"

Shall we? Oh, go on, let's do it, for old time's sake... "You know. For kids!"
Something I noticed in the comments last time was the number of people – even those who liked part 1 – who felt it was rather formulaic. It felt fresher to me, which I suspect has a lot to do with my general non-watching of modern animation. Anyway, time to end the cliff-hanger! Just be thankful you've only had to wait two days for it – back in 2010, the notion of running a Pony two-parter in a single slot lay well in the future: viewers had to wait for twelve days before they saw episode two. Yes, that's right: ep 1 went out on a Sunday, but ep 2 appeared on a Friday. Indeed, Friday would remain FiM day for the rest of S1.

S1E02: "Friendship is Magic, part 2"
Written by Lauren Faust
22 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.7

The one with Twilight forgetting how libraries work.

Thoughts: I like the foreshadowing of each of the ReMane Five's Elements, even though with hindsight it's pretty obvious. The Everfree Forest is a much spookier place than it becomes even later in S1, and I miss that – until this episode, none of the ponies had ever been inside before. The manticore shows the dangers pretty well, even if Rarity does kick him in the face! (But Twi wasn't allowed to hit Tirek years later? Hmm.) We get our first song – not a great one, but it's cute in its place. Steven Magnet appears, though he'd have to wait 98 episodes for his pirate-upload name to become canon. The Shadowbolts sequence is nice, showing just how susceptible to flattery early-series Rainbow can be. And of course there's the dramatic final confrontation and the return of (S1-style) Luna. Interesting that Twilight refers to her friends as "the spirits of the Elements of Harmony", not dependent on the physical artefacts. I suppose that also applies after the Tree's destruction so many years later! Also our first sight of Celestia and the first utterance (albeit with significance unexplained) of "cutie mark". And, right at the end, Pinkie's first fourth-wall moment. A fine episode. Not hugely representative of most of the season, but even so.

Choice quote: Twilight (sarkily) to Dash: "Yes, Rainbow. I was there."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "The Ticket Master", which my admittedly rusty memory doesn't recall being all that great. We shall see!

Monday, 11 November 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 43 to 39

Since I don't want to do two "My Little Repeats" posts on successive days, I need to put something else up today. "Sounds of 2012" would seem to fit the bill nicely. We're getting well into the upper half of the Everfree Radio listeners' selections now, and there are a couple of fairly well-known songs featured in this post. A quick reminder of when I'll feature a song – Rule 1 is by far the most common:

Rule 1: Still available in the same or (1b) similar form direct from the artist
Rule 2: Available from a third party, with reason to believe the artist is fine with this
Rule 3: So famous that it would be plain silly to leave it out
Rule 4: Being unlisted is not, on its own, grounds for exclusion

43: Sim Gretina – Colgate Brushie Song (Inspector Brushie Remix)
42: Bronyfied – My Little Metal Medley
41: Bronyfied – Flower of the Season (ft. Aviators)
40: The Living Tombstone – Dubstep Dishwasher
39: Replacer – Let Your Mane Down (d.notive cover)

I have YouTube links, download info where offered and some brief information about each song beyond the cut.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

My Little Repeats 1: "Friendship is Magic, part 1"

I wonder how many of FiM's first viewers spotted this clever foreshadowing shot?
Welcome to My Little Repeats, everypony! Today, of course, we start off with the episode that started it all more than nine years ago. This episode is sometimes referred to as "Mare in the Moon", but I'm going to stick with the more common name here. As you'll see, I'm not joining double episodes together – so there'll be a thrilling cliff-hanger wait before you find out what I think of part two. Off we go!

S1E01: "Friendship is Magic, part 1"
Written by Lauren Faust
10 Oct 2010

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.6

The one with the Rain-blow-dry.

Thoughts: The very first thing we see is the book opening – it would finally close over 220 epsodes later. The very first voice is Nicole Oliver's, and quickly we're into the storybook-style opening and the dramatic story of Nightmare Moon's banishment. Then it's back to Flash animation in its S1 form, which these days looks a bit sparse but still quite nice. Meeting the Mane Six is pretty fun throughout, and long-running concepts like Sparity and the Wonderbolts are efficiently introduced. "Ten seconds flat" also shows nice attention to detail. Mind you, Ashleigh Ball's voices for Applejack (especially) and Rainbow aren't quite there yet. Twilight's snarky personality is a joy to revisit, but her sometimes thoughtless treatment of Spike is less so, as is the dragon's partial illiteracy – thankfully swiftly forgotten. Nightmare Moon makes a fine villain in the short time she has on screen, and (despite an anachronistic CMC shot) the final scene works very well. All in all, a very promising beginning!

Choice quote: Twilight to Spike: "Focus, Casanova."

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "Friendship is Magic, part 2" [You don't say? —Ed.], which I'm looking forward to very much as the series' first big adventure!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

EqG Mini-review: "Holidays Unwrapped"

Does nobody do any work in EqG-world when it snows?
Here we are, then. With the final Friendship is Magic episode now a few weeks behind us in the rear-view mirror, here's the final Equestria Girls special. This is actually not a special in the usual sense of the word, although it was marketed as such. It's a collection of several scenes, and it was written by Anna Christopher – who I'll confess I knew nothing whatsoever about before "Holidays Unwrapped" appeared. Was it any good? Well, past the cut you'll find my short assessment.