Thursday, 31 October 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 5: The Obligatory Merch Haul Pic

Almost at the end of this marathon now! After this, I have only one more post to come on the subject – a "general thoughts" one which will probably appear sometime around Monday. Apologies for the iffy quality of the photo here; it was taken in my Nottingham hotel room on a very gloomy day. I think I've got the details of each item right, but I'm happy to be corrected if anyone knows better.

Apologies for the small numbers; click the pic to enlarge it a bit
Key to items

1. Fluttershy "mystery bag"; art by Ponebooth. This contained:
2. Mane Six lanyard
10. Fluttershy badge
11. "Brony forever" badge
3. 2019 con T-shirt; art by Sparkler. Not black! :D
4. "Crystal Pony" – from the 2018 pony customising contest. My auction win!
5. Con badge; art by Anna Pommes
6. Apple Family print; art by Greenfly
7. Programme for the "Beach Party" evening concert.
8. Conbook; art by Anna Pommes
9. Sleepy Fluttershy; by Magical Cuties
12. Seapony Britannia; by the HQG1C project
13. Little UK PonyCon flyer
14. Bambi-style Fluttershy badge; by Jowybean

A smaller haul than at some cons – no original art, for example – but then my budget was tighter so that was no surprise. I was pretty pleased, all in all. A shame UKPC stopped doing posters after 2017, as I really liked them. That flyer was the closest we non-VIPs could get (they got an exclusive print). But if the posters didn't sell well enough any more, I can't really knock them for discontinuing the things. Hard to pick a favourite item from this lot, but Sleepyshy must be pretty high on the list. She's so adorable! :D

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 270

Read it Later story count: 235 (+2)

I haven't got anything of interest to report this week, so let's get straight on with the stories. There are four of them on the list today, and they are:

The Only Day by naturalbornderpy
Flood by CalebH
The Sauce Must Flow by Majin Syeekoh
A dangerous bet? by Gadgetphile

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

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 4: Monday – CornerCon, RainCon, MikeCon

Taken on Sunday night, but it seemed appropriate for this post
What? No, these post titles aren't getting desperate at all. I don't know what you mean. (I can see that Liarjack face —Ed.) There are a couple more UK PonyCon posts to come after this – one the inevitable Merch Haul and one summing up my thoughts about this year's convention – but today's is the last of the chronological reports, covering the Monday. Let's go!

The morning after the convention before is always a less than cheery time, assuming the con itself has gone well – which this one certainly did. Happily, on Sunday evening Hawthorn had (more or less accidentally) become the organiser of an informal farewell breakfast at the Company Inn, quite close to Nottingham station. He and I were the only certain attendees for a while, but even so we arranged to check out and be ready for 9.00 am. I did meet one other attendee as I was waiting for him, who saw my con T-shirt and MLP bag and said with a grin, "I know where you've been all weekend!" He'd had a good time too.

Unlike last year, it wasn't raining as we trekked across town to the pub we'd chosen. As we'd hoped, the place was fairly empty at this time on a Monday morning, so we settled into what looked like a nice corner section where we could leave big bags without getting in people's way. Well, except for the couple of pensioners who turned up later. It appeared they sat in this area every day or something, so despite the vast acreages of space elsewhere, they squeezed in past us. It was... strange.

I took no photos over breakfast, so have Train Pirateshy instead
I know I've used the word "convivial" a lot in these reports, but this breakfast was exactly that. I can't remember everyone who joined us for varying lengths of time, but Hawker Hurricane was around from quite early on, which was nice. Later we were joined by Jowy and StewArt, which resulted in some very interesting discussion of the ins and outs of con vendor-ing, artistic direction and even – yay! – some ponyfic talk. Hawthorn attempted unsuccessfully to get me reading GMBlackjack's unfinished behemoth The League of Sweetie Belles.

Guiding Breeze popped in for a while, too, which was an unexpected pleasure and gave us a few more insights into UK PonyCon from the inside. A few more convention people came and went, and outside the sky grew steadily gloomier until the rain came. I had intended to depart after a couple of hours, but I was loath to leave this nice warm pub corner containing people talking about ponies – though we never did get the pensioners to join that discussion! – so by the time I finally dragged myself to my feet it was 1.00 and I'd been there for four hours.

I thought my convention was over and done with, but fate dealt me one last good card: because I did get a later train than I'd originally intended, I was joined as far as Birmingham by Mike. This was an unexpected pleasure, mostly because he was good company but partly because it let us talk about the finale'n'epilogue without any risk of spoiling others! We also chatted about the show in general and some much earlier episodes. We parted at New Street and I crossed Birmingham in the rain to get my train home. And that was it: my UKPC was over. Awww.

About to board my train away from PonyCon Central

Sunday, 27 October 2019

UK PonyCon smashes charity fund-raising record!

This is my 1,500th post here on Louder Yay. I therefore wanted to post something reasonably significant to mark the occasion. As it so happens, UK PonyCon has presented me with a very obvious choice. As announced yesterday, the convention has smashed its all-time record for charity fund-raising. The long-time and excellent beneficiary, the RDA, will receive...
Last year's total – itself a record at the time – was £6,750, so this is a very substantial increase. The largest single component, the Grand Charity Auction, apparently raised £5,834. On top of that were things including the tombola (apparently a smash hit in itself), contest entry fees, HQG1C sales and the donations included in VIP- and Supporter-tier tickets.

I am absolutely delighted about this! The RDA is a wonderful charity which has been really good to UKPC over the years, and I'm so happy that those of us who played any part in this year's convention have contributed to such a wonderful total for such a fine cause.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 55 to 49

"Two of these posts in the space of three days?" you may be thinking. "Who are you and what have you done with Logan?" But yes, we are indeed returning to "Sounds of 2012" today: the top 100 fandom tracks of that year, as voted for by listeners to Everfree Radio. Boilerplate coming up to remind you how I decide if a track should be included, and then we'll be off towards the fringes of the top 50. Unfortunately, one song this time didn't qualify 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

55: Aviators – Love is in Bloom remix (feat. Yelling At Cats and HMage)
54: Silva Hound ft. Rina-Chan – Hooves Up High
53: Forest Rain – Raise the Sun
52: JakeLion – Fluttershy Inc. (Gorillas Pony Parody)
51: The Living Tombstone – Smile Song (remix)
50: skipped
49: Random Encounters – The Brony Song

If you'd like to read my rambling about these tracks, then past the cut with you!

Friday, 25 October 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 3: Sunday – DeadFandomCon, AuctionCon, CustardCon

Stormy's Art Panel. With art
Right, I think it's about time I tore myself away from crashing into rocks in Rainbow Dash Attack (current PB: not enough) and returned to writing about UK PonyCon 2019. Having actually had some sleep on Saturday night, and being able to go to breakfast slightly later on account of con registration being unnecessary this time, I was feeling a lot more awake. At the Joseph Else this time I was joined by Hawthorn, Oilyvalves and Griffin, which was a pleasant start to the day.

The weather was a bit on the damp side this time, but it wasn't too bad and of course there was less time to wait outside in the queue than there had been on Saturday. Once indoors, there were naturally a few quips about how we G4 fans had now joined the G1–G3 aficionados in a dead fandom. Because clearly nobody will ever be interested in personal small horses again. The S9 finale and epilogue had officially aired on DF the previous night, but we avoided discussing those as not everyone had seen them.

At 10.00 I broke with my usual habit and went to an art panel, this one run by StormBlaze and her sister Featherpaw. The room was fairly full, which was pleasing to see. Despite a technical issue that meant the planned live demonstration wasn't possible, I was impressed by this panel. The two presenters were interesting speakers and explained subjects like light and shadow (eg why you'd use very dark colours instead of black) in a way that even art ignorami like me could understand.

A packed main hall for the Charity Auction
There was a little time to kill after this panel, so naturally I did some more shopping. At midday, quite a few of us headed for the LGBTQ+ Representation on MLPTube panel, not quite knowing what to expect. Host Apple Honey talked about the stop-motion series she produces using MLP toys. She was only 15 and freely admitted to being nervous, but she won us over with her sincerity. I admired the way she decided not to talk about her coming out (as had been trailed in the conbook) as she wasn't comfortable with it; I think that's the sort of thing that can really help people.

Food would have to wait, as it was now time for the Grand Charity Auction, always a highlight of UKPC. For once I hadn't spent all my money by this point, and I ended up bidding on more things than I'd ever done before. Okay, I didn't actually win most of them, on account of them going wildly over my top limit. (Case in point: an IDW comic signed by Tabitha St. Germain and bearing drawings by both Katie Cook and Andy Price, which closed at something like £400.) Still, for the first time ever I did actually win something! You'll see it when I post my Merch Haul photo later in this series.

All this did mean that I'd missed Rainbow Dash Attack (probably for the best!) but since I wasn't going for the Virtual Reality Experience the karaoke room was calling. The Sunday session is often more laid back than the Saturday one, and so it proved this time. I sang "Shine Like Rainbows", which I was extremely pleased to get through with not too many mistakes. I then went on a food/shopping run, but I was back in time to see Alex T Fish give us all a wonderfully hammy rendition of the kirin song, complete with all kinds of actions.

The end is neigh. Awwww!
I hummed and hawed about going to Steely Hooves' Making Music panel, but by the time I'd made my mind up it was already half over. I rather regret this, since reports from people who did go were pretty positive. But now it was time for the closing ceremony. (Booo!) No real mass sing-song this time, which was a bit of a shame, though I joined in many of the songs even if most of the audience didn't! The closing ceremony was as they usually are: thanks, prizes, you get the idea. None of us really wanted the convention to end.

We did at least get a couple of tasty titbits. First, that the auction had broken the all-time UKPC record and raised a tremendous £5,835 for the RDA. Yay! And second, that UK PonyCon 2020 would have the theme "#SpookyCon". Yeah, they said "hashtag" as part of the title. No date fixed yet, and though Hallowe'en is on a Saturday next year it's probably a little too late for UKPC's liking. Mind you, 10th October is also on a Saturday. As ever, though, we shall have to wait and see what the next few months reveal.

A whole bunch of Custardians then headed up the road to the Gooseberry Bush, the same pub we'd had our post-con meal at in 2018. We had to shove some tables around to give us nearly enough space, but we more or less managed. There was food and drink and laughter and friendship and all the other things My Little Pony is for. Pony stacking happened, with varying degrees of skill and silliness. (Not much skill on my part!) Ialyrn teased me with jokes about custard. We all teased Ace with jokes about Best Babysitter (Sunburst).

Pony stacking, Hard Mode
Eventually, it was time to go, after one or two awkward hugs. (Hey, we're bronies – we can't go being socially confident, now, can we?) Hawthorn and I strolled back to the Travelodge, chatting vaguely. The streets seemed quieter than they had on either of the other two nights, and indeed they remained that way later on. Possibly the loud people were being loud in front of someone else's hotel for a change, but whatever the case I had the most peaceful of my three nights' sleep in Nottingham. I wasn't quite done with UKPC yet, though...

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 61 to 56

Friendship is Magic is over and done with (at least as far as the TV show is concerned) but there's a lot more for me to write here yet! And one of the things I need to get on with is "Sounds of 2012". As usual, here's a quick refresher on the rules I use to determine inclusion here. I think I'll put them in a smaller font from now on, so that they don't sprawl over so much space. Besides, Rule 1 covers everything this time around.

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

61: Sim Gretina – Twilightlicious ('Troll it down' remix)
60: Stablefree – Discord (Big Band Jazz Cover ft. Replacer)
59: RainbowCrash88 – Rainbow Dash Stage Theme
58: Aviators and Omnipony – Monster
57: Sim Gretina – Twilight ft. Dusk Shine – Magic
56: Echelon – Sleep

If you'd like to know a bit more about these six tracks, then please keep reading!

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 269

Read it Later story count: 233 (-2)

Time for horsewords. Easing back into this feature with three quick-and-easy stories. Now that Friendship is Magic is over and done with as a continuing series, I have a few ideas for Ponyfic Roundup. I don't intend to change the format; I mean more that I may have a little more time for stuff along the lines of themed editions, like I used to do way back when. That's for another week, though. This week, I'm looking at these:

Prejudicial Procedure Problem by iisaw
My Roommate is Not a Vampire by Ave Celestia
Yeah. by Pickleless

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

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Text Review Roundup: "The Last Problem"

And also the last Text Review Roundup – for some considerable while, at least. (I don't do TRRs for the Equestria Girls specials, so "Holidays Unwrapped" won't get one.) Even if I do end up resurrecting this feature for G5, I may tweak it a little – in particular, removing my one/two-word value judgements and letting reviewers' words speak for themselves. (Of course, which words I choose to quote will still be subjective!)

Anyway, how did "The Last Problem" fare? I'll be honest, the first time I skimmed a few reviewers' thoughts, I hit on the negative ones and thought they were representative. I'm therefore having to revise my opinion on that even as I write up this TRR. That said, the praise was certainly not universal, and in a few cases maybe it's hard to separate the reviewer's praise for the episode with their praise for the series. My own mixed view was below the average.

Bubble Blabber – positive (rated 9/10; "Seeing Twilight, Spike, and everyone else as aging adults is strange and instantly makes me feel nostalgic, which is exactly what I want in a final episode [...] the show treated this like how a finale should be treated: not being afraid to finalize arcs, fulfill fans wishes, and put a capstone on characters journeys as they move on and grow older.")

Cuddlepug – very positive (graded A; "wraps everything up in a way that “The Ending of the End” wasn't able to do [...] gives us the answers we wanted and ties everything together neatly [...] Seeing all the characters years on, looking tired but still conversing as good friends, is rewarding")

Dark Qiviut – very positive ("The moral is excellent in concept and better than excellent in execution [...The song is] emotional, hopeful, and beautiful [...] A magnificent cap to a great, successful show!")

DrakeyC – positive ("much better [than eps 24/25] I laughed very frequently [...] I liked the grown-up designs for the cast [...] all the ships are canon and they have kids and I don't care how much pandering it is, I ate it up and want seconds. And the final song was great, great seeing all the cast, and very touching and warm.")

Dramamaster829 – broadly positive ("I did felt my heart-strings tugged seeing the way this episode was written out. Sure we got to see the typical ‘Anything can and will go wrong’ coronation that still works out [and] the introduction of Luster Dawn was random [but] overall the ending with the book closing as a nod to how the show started… That hit me hard.")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "God, I cried. [...] Pinkie married Cheese Sandwich and had a kid. I cried. Applejack was wearing Granny Smith's scarf. I cried. The ponies we grew up loving and laughing with are finally older and living their lives. I cried. [...] Phenomenal finale.")

Louder Yay – mixed (rated 3/5; "If you consider this thing simply as an episode of an animated children's show, then I don't think it's especially impressive [...] However. However. It's not "simply" any such thing, not to me [...] I'm not at all fond of [all the shipping, but the song] really fitted for me [and] The very end of "The Last Problem" brings us easily the epilogue's best moments.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – very negative ("if you think Spike’s future design is the worst issue, you haven’t seen anything yet [... The flashback stuff is] typical lightweight Season 9 fluff [...] a catchall bucket marked “it’s a fun Epilogue, indulge your reckless side normally kept tampered, FiM staff”. The end result is like stepping forth into somebody else’s migraine [...] I stand by this Epilogue being Canon In Name Only [...] the fanservice moments are not things fans need, even if they think they do")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 10/10; "an emotional final farewell to the series with our final song of the season as well as the entirety of the series [...] man was it a powerhouse of a final farewell")

Present Perfect – mixed ("That was... okay. [...] The final sequence with the song was fantastic, my friend and I were literally just shouting at the screen the things which we were seeing [...] I hate two of the ships they canonized [...] the last few minutes of The Final Problem were even a fitting and perhaps beautiful finale for MLP:FiM, but overall? As an episode? It was just okay.")

SuperPinkBrony12 – positive ("The Last Problem I'm willing to give it an A+ just on account of how well it wrapped things up, maybe it's not what some of us would've preferred but all things considered I don't think we could've asked for a much better send off than that.")

The Railfan Brony – extremely negative (rated Atrocious; "Literally the first thing I said after watching it was, "that's it?" I'm not even joking [...] I genuinely feel sorry for the voice actors and animators that all of their amazing talent was wasted on this.")

TheDragonWarlock – positive (rated 9/10; "falls a little short of being perfect. It comes damn close to it though [...] It's got a great story, the characters are all well written, its has a fantastic song, and a moral that everyone can relate to and learn [...] sends the show off on a very high note.")

Monday, 21 October 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 2: Saturday – BaCon, ConCon, McCon

G1 Blue Belle and Minty joined us for breakfast
I'd like to say I woke up bright and early on the Saturday, but since I'd barely been to sleep that would be a lie. Despite my hype for the convention, I wasn't sure how well I'd keep going throughout a long day, and I'd done some semi-serious planning of where in the schedule I could nip back to the hotel and have a nap for an hour or two. (Spoiler alert: I didn't end up needing to.) Having prepared everything I needed, I went downstairs at 7.30 to meet Hawthorn in the hotel lobby.

We strolled to the Joseph Else Wetherspoons, enjoying the quiet atmosphere. The more I think about it, the more I think of Day!Nottingham and Night!Nottingham as two different cities, and it's fair to say that I like the former a good deal more. Anyway, we were joined at breakfast by Oilyvalves, which was nice. I pigged out on Spoons' large fried breakfast and just about managed to finish it! Also coffee. Then we walked all of 20 yards to the tram stop. This is the sort of city planning I can get behind.

As I mentioned last year, Nottingham's trams are great; the £1 short hop fare was very nice. Once off the tram, the brief walk to the venue brought us the good news that the queue was still fairly short. (It didn't stay that way!) It's always nice to meet friends in con queues, and Mike had also joined the "get there early" crowd. There was our usual teasing of the posh people who had VIP tickets, not least Worcester meet regular Somerset Cider, and again when piratical Zen and Ace turned up. :P

Home for the next two days
UK PonyCon seems to have registration down, and in fact we were allowed into the venue a little earlier than expected – although, reasonably enough, kept away from the vendor hall until the end of the VIP preview period. Most of us stood around, read our conbooks and chatted, and it quickly became clear that I hadn't been the only person with noise problems last night. There were people on the ninth floor of my hotel who'd been disturbed, and even some who weren't normally bothered by such things.

Once general admission began, most of us made for the stalls to get our bearings. Since my budget was fairly small this time, the likes of Sewpoke's beautiful plushies were beyond me, but I wasn't at all surprised to see several of them being treasured by others as the day and weekend wore on. I did, however, find a lovely little moulded sleeping Fluttershy, which I had to have. I also went to the con merch desk and came away with this year's T-shirt and the HQG1C Britannia seapony.

My first panel of the day was Mad Munchkin's. She requested not to be filmed, and although she was okay with still photos I felt it would be easier all round to keep my phone in my pocket. If you've ever been to a Mad Munchkin panel, you'll have the general idea: cheerily pointing out what a wide range of things can be considered creative acts, and talking a little bit about the way forward after G4. And, of course, the inevitable "Stay creative!" group yell. :P

Superb con banner by StewArt
This one's going to be long, so here's a page break. Click on it to see the rest!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Episode review: S9E26: "The Last Problem"

That Young Six window is a fanfic waiting to happen, for a start!
Here we go, then. The very last new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic we will ever see. Josh Haber was, unsurprisingly, the one who got the final writing credit for the series. After a finale which I found highly watchable, if not exactly perfectly constructed, I was hoping that I'd be able to go out on a high note. After all, FiM has changed my life in oh so many ways and brought me a great deal of happiness. Come past the cut to see what I thought!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Text Review Roundup: "The Ending of the End"

As I've said already, the end of the show certainly doesn't seem to have reduced my workload here any. :D This time, I'm getting TRR updated to nearly the end of the series. As one or two people have pointed out, some reviewers did cover both "The Ending of the End" and "The Last Question" in the same review, but I think they're different enough to split. This means I'll have to make more value judgements than usual, so please do comment below if you think I've misrepresented your views.

Also, many reviewers wrote a lot about the finale, and I'm simply not going to include 500-word summaries, so inevitably I'm having to simplify greatly here. Please do read the full reviews to understand the reviewers' feelings. Anyway, the text-based folks gave it a decidedly mixed reaction. It does feel strange that (along with the oft-cheery MLEEP) it was Present Perfect and me who liked this one more than anybody else did! Even we disliked the Grogar twist, though, which was absolutely not well received.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded B-; "[The Grogar = Discord] twist doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense [...] and Discord's motivation is, frankly, an insult to the audience [...] this sours what is actually quite a decent episode overall [...] t's big, it's bold and it's certainly exciting.")

Dark Qiviut – mildly positive ("[Making Spike Friendship Ambassador is] Small, but powerful and extraordinarily sweet [but] Discord being Grogar is a poorly-written, overcomplicated twist [...] Ending of the End's okay. I like it, but like A Canterlot Wedding, it could've done much better.")

DrakeyC – somewhat negative ("The Grogar-Discord twist was terrible [and] raises a lot of questions [...] Twilight's shattered self-confidence was totally forced [...] The racism subplot, and by association the Windigos, was stupid and pointless [...] but there were a lot of great things in this episode. The final battle [...] everyone [coming] together as one nation to fight the trio [...] the powered-up designs for Cozy Glow and Chrysalis [but] Overall, Episodes 24 and 25 were a disappoint")

Dramamaster829 – broadly positive ("I could not get over the fact that the whole time Grogar was Discord in disguise [but] Much of the sequences within this first part alone were amazing [and] the final confrontation against Tirek, Chrysalis and Cozy Glow [was] probably bigger than the Season 4 finale. [...] If the show had chosen to end with this Two-Parter alone, it would’ve been a satisfying ending.")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 8.5/10; "What. The. Hell. Discord. [...] I really did enjoy the rest of this first part [...] REALLY enjoyed part two [...] Discord somewhat redeemed himself, and the fight scenes are just SOOOOO GOOOOOD. [...] And better yet, we didn't forgive the villains!")

Louder Yay – generally very positive (rated 4/5; "There were a lot of enjoyable bits in "The Ending of the End" – and I do mean a lot – but they weren't always smoothly connected. [...] I'm still more than a bit annoyed about Grogar not being real [but] I really liked Starlight's battle with Chrysalis [and we later got] the Rainbow of Light! :D [...] I loved the final scene in Donut Joe's [except for] a weak "everypony laughs" ending.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – mixed ("character moments don’t really deliver, so all the audience investment comes from prior episodes. For most viewers, that’ll be enough, these episodes are quite the thriller [...] enjoyable in spurts but really rickety and wobbly when you think about what's going on for even a second [...] You know the Grogar twist has pissed a lot of people off when even DrWolf can’t mount a defence for it.")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 10/10; "the most epic battle of good versus evil that has ever been while bringing an perfectly fitting end for our legion of villains as well as the dawn of a new era as the Princess Of Friendship herself officially becomes Equestria's new ruler")

Present Perfect – mostly very positive ("I’m mad because Grogar was so cool, and so menacing and so powerful, and I was really looking forward to finding out what his master plan was [but] by the end of part 1, they had topped Twilight’s Kingdom in terms of epicness [and] THEY DID A PINKY AND THE BRAIN REFERENCE. [...] it’s actually a strong conclusion for the School of Friendship [...] It’s not the best episode of the show’s entire run, but it might be top three?")

SuperPinkBrony12 – rather negative ("very clunky in its set up, Part 1 especially suffers from how horribly they wrote Discord [...] Part 2 tried to pick up the pieces and make them fit back in but did so in a very half hearted way, padding out the run time")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "[Grogar being Discord was] hooves down, the stupidest plot twist this show has ever spewed [... The villains] end up being turned into a statue. Thank goodness [...] takes every grand finale cliche, smashes them all up and throws the remains into the hotel swimming pool. It's a completely underwhelming anticlimax")

TheDragonWarlock – negative (rated 4/10; "For wasting so much potential, ramping up a lot of hype without delivering it, and failing to do what should've been the final season's last battle justice, it deserves a low score for what it did. There's nothing I hate more then wasted potential for a good story, and this finale not only squandered potential, it stomped over it and spat on it.")

Friday, 18 October 2019

UK PonyCon report, part 1: Friday – TunnelCon, PubCon, NoiseCon

Gee, Applejack, do you think there are Pony fans on this train?
It always seems to rain at UK PonyCon. Okay, the British weather in October is not known for its Mediterranean heat and sunshine, but even so. I stood at my local station on Friday morning, getting damp. I didn't mind that much, of course: I was going to my favourite event of the year! I hadn't arranged to meet anyone along the way, so I didn't have a specific schedule to keep to. It mostly wasn't a thrilling trip, one minor highlight being a Lotus Biscoff muffin in Costa. I'd meant to watch "Magical Mystery Cure" on the train, but somepony forgot to copy it onto his phone. D'oh!

There was happily one exception to the dullness of the train journey, which was that Oilyvalves joined me for the last leg from Derby Derpy to Nottingham Trottingham. We'd known for a while that this might happen as our schedules were similar, but we hadn't made any firm plans and had left it on an "if it happens, it happens" basis. The weather was pretty poor by this time, so it was nice to have something to lift my spirits, and since both of us had seen the S9 finale we didn't have to worry about spoilers. That wouldn't be the case later in the weekend!

We reached Nottingham a little earlier than I'd expected, and this left me a potentially annoying few minutes before my hotel check-in opened at 3 pm. Happily, fate smiled on me for a change and I met a few others including Fluffles (who I hadn't met in person before) at the tram stop. We said our hellos and had a little mini-meet before heading for our final destinations. I was in the Travelodge in the city centre and was assigned a first-floor room, which didn't thrill me: past experience told me it was very convenient and the staff were good, but that noise could be a problem. Yes indeed...

Scary secret tunnel. With litter bin
After check-in, I dumped my stuff and did the minimum possible preparation for later on. Oilyvalves, who knows Nottingham pretty well owing to living in the region, had offered to take people on a walk to a "secret tunnel" – the city is ribboned with the things – and since the rain had miraculously cleared up just in time, a number of us went for it. This was fun, since the tunnel in question is open to the public and big enough to drive a bus through (we sadly couldn't prove this by experiment) but is hidden away so well that you could walk right past its entrance without noticing.

After a quick change into a dry T-shirt at my Travelodge, I headed to the Roebuck pub less than five minutes' walk from the hotel, for a rendezvous with various other friends. We'd found the Roebuck to be a good Friday evening base the previous year, and so it proved this time as well. Meals were eaten, fish and chips for me, and (at least in my case) cider was drunk. People were silly. We talked about ponies. We avoided finale spoilers for the benefit of the several present who hadn't had time to catch up. It made for a most enjoyable few hours.

We did have quite a lot of people at our table by the time a few hours had gone by – I can't remember the exact number, but it certainly peaked at more than a dozen. This was great in the sense of creating a little "mini con" atmosphere, but maybe slightly less great in the sense of actually having enough room for plates! Staggering our meal orders did help a bit, and I was conscious that we were at least staying away from the England football match that was being shown in some other pubs. Give me a choice of people kicking a ball up and down a field or people stacking plastic ponies, and it's not really a contest.

Applejack inspecting my cider. Or so she claimed

In the end, many of us including me stayed in the pub until getting on for 11 pm. It was just so convivial and it felt so good to be able to talk about MLP openly to others who understood why ponies rocked. I can do that at meets of course, but not quite like this. One welcome new face to join our table was Mike (Cartoon Pony/Karma), who again I'd never met in person before. He'd travelled over from Ireland that day and had only arrived in Nottingham earlier in the evening. UKPC would be his first ever Pony convention, so at this point he remained in blissful ignorance of exactly what he'd let himself in for... ;)

Eventually I headed the few hundred yards back to my hotel and up the steps to the first floor, where a few other con-goers were staying. It turned out that Hawthorn was only three rooms down the same corridor! This wasn't the big con hotel – that was a Premier Inn almost opposite the venue, where the staff had put up a few pony things in welcome. We didn't get anything like that at the Travelodge, but even so it was nice to have that feeling of shared enterprise and converging on something exciting.

Sadly my actual night was a disaster. Maybe because of the football, the noise outside my window was truly horrendous, to the extent that I pulled my clothes back on and did something I've never done before: I went to reception at 3 am to ask if anyone could help. Someone could: a very friendly staffer named Barry adjusted my window seals so that the noise level was significantly lower. Even so, it was loud enough that I got about 20 minutes' sleep. I never sleep well before cons, but this was a new low. I gave up around 5.45 and had a shower, hoping things could only improve from here on in...

The stunning view from my hotel window

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Episode review: S9E24/25: "The Ending of the End"

"I am PinkCozia, Queen of Queens. Look upon me, ye mighty, and buy our toys!"
Well, here we are. It's the S9 finale. Also, therefore, the finale of Friendship is Magic as a whole, making this the very las—what's that? An epilogue? Oh. Okay, this is nearly the very last time I'll be writing one of these reviews. The show's never scheduled a two-parter like this before, but I was hoping for something impressive. Nicole Dubuc was handling the first part of this double-length ep, while Michael Vogel was on second-part writing duties. How did it perform? You know what to do to find out!

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Element Number Five

My review of "The Ending of the End" should be up tomorrow or Friday.

No Ponyfic Roundup today owing to UK PonyCon getting in the way – but rather than leave this day blank, I'm posting something that exists because of UK PonyCon! The video above was made by Scrimmy and shows Re:Make, once (and to some probably still) better known as Acoustic Brony. They're performing at the convention's Saturday evening concert. I'll write more about that in my report, but this song? This is "Honesty". Yes, really. The video includes a bit of intro talk in the lead-up to the actual music; skip to around 1:15 for just the song.

The acoustics in the con hall weren't the greatest – but a studio version is coming, we were told. Oh, and they said they intended to bring out "Magic" as well eventually. So, you know, just another ordinary day at UKPC...

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Text Review Roundup: "The Big Mac Question"

I am returnèd from UK PonyCon. I loved it. But if you know anything much about me, then you probably knew I was going to say that. I'll inflict a multi-part con report on you in due course, but for now it's time to get back to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As far as Text Review Roundup is concerned, the show has a little life left in it yet! Since I didn't get the TRR for "The Big Mac Question" done before I left for the con, here it is.

The written reviewers generally liked this episode, and in many cases they liked it quite a lot, which was nice considering that it was the final "regular" ep before the end of the show's run. It was really only DrakeyC among the regular TRR crew who found it underwhelming. I liked this episode a little bit more than the average, but not by a huge margin.

Cuddlepug – mostly positive (graded B; "delivers some of the more heart-warming scenes of Friendship is Magic [...] Where the episode doesn't quite work is in the random, 'mockumentary'-style scenes [...] However, the episode pulls things back with its fantastic [final scenes]")

Dark Qiviut – extremely positive (graded A+; "The Big Mac Question is really funny, really cute, and really heartwarming. Vogel and Haber tackled all of the emotions at exactly the right time and provided a magnificent cap to several arcs, some of which date back to the first season. This is the new-best Season 9 episode and one of the ten best of the series.")

DrakeyC – mixed ("The CMC's antics [in the third act] were hilarious, Mrs Cake was fine. [However, while] the third act is well-handled and written well and everything comes together nicely[,] on an emotional level, I don't care [...] because [Big Mac and Sugar Belle's] relationship has had no development.)
NB: DrakeyC missed the background LyraBon moment because of stream lag.

Dramamaster829 – mildly positive ("From start to finish, I actually found myself enjoying this episode far more than I was prepared for. [...] While [considering the marriage's effect on AJ] would've made for a more dramatic story than what we got, in the end I was satisfied with what we did get.")

Fiendstorm – very positive (graded A; "I freaking love the cold open [...] a great example of a flashback episode [...] The ending to this episode is probably the most touching [...] a gem of an episode.")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "I loved this episode. Very cute. Very funny. Very fitting to see off these two characters with a marriage, and to tie it into arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series (Perfect Pear) was absolutely beautiful.")

Louder Yay – very positive (rated 4/5; "I really enjoyed this episode, and there really wasn't much I can fault it on. [...] Discord was at his most Discord-y [...] We've followed Lyra and Bon Bon since S1, and I'm sure that's why [their] moment felt entirely right: not forced, but an organic continuation of the last few years.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – positive ("easily the best episode since “She Talks to Angel” [despite] a plot setup you can see coming from a mile away [...] As for the episode’s sweet final few minutes, it’s all perfectly constructed [...] decent-but-not-great comedy")

MLEEP Reviews – very positive (rated 10/10; "one of the most heartwarming and romantic episodes that I've ever seen throughout the series these past nine years")

Present Perfect – fairly positive ("they finally did an episode with a romance theme and got the message right [...] Discord’s apple gambit was highly entertaining, and the “I thought we were just saying each others’ names” gag was hilarious [but] it’s a retread of all the other SugarMac episodes [and] just left me wishing those had been better. ")

SuperPinkBrony12 – broadly positive ("while everyone is mostly in character and the story does the comedy of errors plot nicely, there are a few minor details that get in the way [...] The CMC's plot also feels like a little bit of a stretch [...] Still, for the first time since "The Summer Sun Setback" we have an episode that is not only fun to watch but also has an enjoyable plot and character moments")

The Railfan Brony – very positive (rated Excellent; "too many funny moments to list [...] I also like how the episode's structure plays out [and Mac and Belle] talking things out before the proposal is one of the best moments of the entire show [...] It's funny, sweet, charming, and has a great ending and moral.")

TheDragonWarlock – broadly positive (rated 8.5/10; "While certainly not one of my all time favorites, this episode was a lot of fun overall. It's a great way to end the SugarMac story arc on a sweet and romantic note. The characters, barring Discord, are all good and well written")

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Sounds of 2012: Nos. 66 to 62

With any luck, as you read this post I shall be away at UK PonyCon, and the final episodes – ever! – of Friendship is Magic will have received their official broadcast on Discovery Family. I know this could be considered a time to look ahead, and I'm sure I'll do some of that in due course, but right now I'm heading back seven years for another Sounds of 2012. A quick refresher on the rules I use to determine whether a song is featured – they're all Rule 1 songs this time:

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

66: Sim Gretina – BBBFF (remix)
65: Sim Gretina – Laughter (feat. Bubble Berry)
64: Baasik/BlackGryph0n – Paper Sky
63: Matthew Mosier – My Cadence (feat. Megaphoric and ismBoF)
62: Flaedr – Crystal Ponies (Flaedr Remix)

If you want to know more about these five tracks, please keep reading!

Friday, 11 October 2019

Apologies for the delay in posting TRR for "The Big Mac Question"

I did mean to schedule this, but a combination of not having time, being distracted by work and simply forgetting means that it'll have to wait until I get back from UK PonyCon. But it will happen!

Off on the Road Railway to Friendship

Yes, at long last it's time for UK PonyCon. As I've mentioned before, this will be my sixth straight year of attendance at UKPC. When I first attended the convention in 2014, we'd never heard the name "Starlight Glimmer" or seen Griffonstone, the CMC were still hunting for their cutie marks and the hilarious absurdity of "Slice of Life" still lay eight months in the future. Things have changed a bit around Equestria since then!

As usual, I'll be doing a write-up of my con experience shortly after I get home, though please don't expect it instantly as I'll doubtless be tired. Don't expect the merch haul to be very impressive either, since money is pretty tight this time – partly my own damn fault for going to another convention this year! To keep you going while I'm away, I've scheduled a "Sounds of 2012" post to appear on Sunday morning. But until next week, farewell!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 268

Read it Later story count: 235 (+1)

At one point this week, I wondered whether I was going to get any sort of Ponyfic Roundup out today. So many things cropping up and causing trouble, most of them pretty minor but they do tend to mount up. Thankfully, I did manage to squeeze in a little reading at the end of the period, so herewith the last three ponyfic reviews on here for a fortnight. All good ones this time, too – remember, my rating system is skewed so that two stars means an average fic.

Treasure by paperhearts
Friendship 101 by BlazzingInferno
Making Do by Lurks-No-More

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

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Pony Music Library 61: "Memory Lane"

I bet some of you thought I was finished with this series! Nope. I just kept forgetting about it, or having other things on my mind, or needing to post episode reviews, or doing "Sounds of 2012" instead. (On which note, I should have a scheduled So2012 post appearing over the weekend.) But even though it's almost six months since the last PML induction, I'm going to bring back the series right now, and with something thematically rather appropriate, I feel:

What? "Memory Lane"

Who? Forest Rain

Which? Fandom song cover

When? February 2012

Why? Yes, I featured this as part of "Sounds of 2012" just last month, but I really do like it enough to induct it here as well. Many people these days don't realise that it's not a Forest Rain original: it's a cover of a gentler acoustic original by Osoth. However, I do like Forest Rain's version more – okay, I like most things she does – thanks to its additional touches, faster pace and infectious beat. It also carries a message that I feel has extra resonance as we face the end of Friendship is Magic. Yes, "No matter if you're underwing" is a slightly strange line (in a song this old, it's unlikely to be a reference to Scootaloo's disability) but I don't think it harms the track. "You just gotta walk that path again, and you can smile, smile, smile" and "where the hurtful and the hateful cannot fly" are much more important. This song reminds us that the happiness we've gained from My Little Pony won't go away. We just have to remember that.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Episode review: S9E23: "The Big Mac Question"

Did the well-timed little gust of wind remind anyone else of the shooting stars of past episodes?
It seems I was a little premature in dubbing last week's episode the last for the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Although "The Big Mac Question" wasn't fully a CMC ep in the way "Growing Up is Hard to Do" was, the fillies did play a very substantial role. But more of that later. This episode was co-written by Josh Haber and Michael Vogel, so I was hoping for both entertainment (from the former) and solid writing (from the latter). Past the cut, we'll see if we got it.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

So, what do we think about this?

Picture from this EqD post, but as it's a promo I'll stick it here too
I think most people expected that the IDW comics would be continuing after the end of the TV series – but going all-out with a bold "Season 10" title? No, that I didn't see coming at all. I haven't really read the comics since about issue 50, which was... um... quite a while ago now, but I suppose I might pick up at least the odd issue of the "new" series. Note that I have not yet seen past S9E22, so with that in mind, please keep any finale/epilogue spoilers out of the comments here! Thanks. :)

This is an initial gut reaction, so it may well change, but I'm not entirely keen. I'd got myself used to the fact that S9 would be the end of the main FiM timeline, and I'd assumed that any further comics would be side stories or historical stuff like FIENDship. I'm ready to start looking forward to G5 now. Obviously I still can, but the continuing existence of this "S10" is bound to overshadow that to some extent. I just hope it doesn't mean Hasbro will keep us waiting for ages before releasing even a sniff of a G5 teaser.

And now I come to think about it, what about ponyfic? The official line on the comics has always been "They're canon until contradicted by the show" – but now they'll never be. Does that new state of affairs upgrade the comics to "primary canon" or are people going to continue to treat them as extended universe? I'm pretty sure that I'm going to treat the comics' "S10" as expendable, in the same way that I have with the IDW issues for the past three years or so. This is interesting – but it's not the show.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Text Review Roundup: "Growing Up is Hard to Do"

TRR time again. This is the last week I'm certain to be able to get one done for a while. I'll try to get next week's up on Thursday, but if I don't manage that then it may have to wait owing to UK PonyCon. As for the episode, the text-based reviewers gave it a mixed reception, although nobody thought it was utterly worthless and, conversely, nobody proclaimed it an all-time classic. I was maybe very slightly kinder than the average towards this one.

Cuddlepug – mixed (graded C; "an entertaining enough episode of Friendship is Magic, but it can't help but come across as something of a missed opportunity [...] it's an episode that doesn't really feature any form of growing up")

Dark Qiviut – no review this week

DrakeyC – largely negative ("The highlight of this episode is the adult CMC. [...] A pity that such great adult designs are being utilized for such a bad episode. I was bored out of my skull [...] The entire second and third acts of this episode felt like padding")

Dramamaster829 – mildly positive ("While it's not the most complex CMC episode in the entire series, for all it's simplicity I actually did enjoy the story [...] a relatable topic")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 9/10; "surprising way to see these characters off [...] Honestly, this was the most relatable lesson. I really enjoyed this one.)

Louder Yay – mildly positive (rated 3/5; "wasn't exactly the most complex of eps [...] but it didn't really do anything that felt egregiously out of place [...] I confess that I didn't really warm to [Spur and Biscuit]: they were rather bland and forgettable [...] superior filler [...] Although it did share one of S9's repeating weaknesses – character regression to fit a particular story – in this case the CMC's lack of maturity didn't seem as out of place as, say, Rainbow's in "2, 4, 6, Greaaat"")

Mike Cartoon Pony – mixed ("It’s just there, not lingering in the mind and only sticking out due to being a poor showing for [the CMC's] last outing. [...] There are plenty of nice touches along the way [and] the song is a catchy, fun one [but] the story after the transformation feels tacked on to the concept of the CMC ageing for the episode, like they didn’t know what to do with that setup. [...] Just a pity Ed Valentine returned for an episode as ultimately flavourless as this.")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 8.5/10; "while having a concept that other shows in kids' entertainment have done before [this episode] still managed to be a pretty great experience which is sure to generate a wave of new creativity among the fandom")

Present Perfect – broadly positive ("The new [CMC] designs were fantastic, and the VA work was awesome. [...] entertaining background gags [...] The only notable downside I can find is that they were really heavy-handed with the whole grownup thing [...] The song wasn't bad, either!")

SuperPinkBrony12 – rather negative ("it's just really predictable and suffers from a lot of continuity errors and character regression. This kind of plot is something I would've expected out of the CMC back in Season 1 or Season 2, not Season 9 [...] All of this could've been fixed if Ed Valentine had anyone tell him what was going on, but for some reason no one did. [At least] it doesn't do anything offensively or majorily bad")

The Railfan Brony – mildly positive (rated Good; "It was... adequate, to say the least. [...] At this point, [the CMC] should be teenagers during their final years of grade school, and yet they're talked down to like it's season one or two. [but they] were enjoyable throughout [...] It's tolerable, that's good enough for me.")

TheDragonWarlock – mixed (rated 6.5/10; "a rather odd episode to have so late into the series, especially the final few episodes of FiM [... This] isn't necessarily a bad episode, but compared to most CMC episode the past few seasons, it feels like a drop off; especially after The Last Crusade. [...] some enjoyable bits such as the song being decent and it has some cute visual gags [but the ep] could've been so much more.")

Thursday, 3 October 2019

A few tips for UK PonyCon, 2019 edition

Here's another feature I try to post in some form in the run-up to each year's UK PonyCon. This year I haven't got the time to spread them out, so I'm doing a (relatively) concise summary. Since we're going to be in the same venue as last year, that will hopefully mean I have slightly greater insight into a few aspects of the practicalities than usual. Lead on, Macduff...

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Ponyfic Roundup 267

Read it Later story count: 234 (-4)

An early warning first up: although there should be a Ponyfic Roundup as normal next week, there won't be one the week after, on account of UK PonyCon. I expect to return to weekly PR instalments on 23rd October. Back to today, and here are the three fics I've been reading. One of which is much longer than I usually manage, so hurrah for that! Reviewed today:

Just Two Clones, Having Dinner by Summer Dancer
The Archetypist by Cold in Gardez
...But It Often Rhymes by Posh

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

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

UK PonyCon questionnaire thingy, 2019 edition!

I've done a questionnaire like this for the last couple of UK PonyCons (although I forgot for Griffish Isles tbis year) and so I thought I'd post one for 2019 as well. This is based on a furry fandom questionnaire that itself was doubtless based on others, so do feel free to use or adapt the questions for yourself if you like. Here we go.

What do I call you? Logan. My actual fandom name is Loganberry, and I don't have any problem with you using that, but it's pretty rare that anyone does. Pretty much everyone calls me Logan, apart from at registration given my real name is on the ticket!

Gender and pronouns? Male. He/him.

What will you look like? Boring. This is me we're talking about. I've run out of time to do even the very simple cosplay I'd been thinking about, so I'll be dressed as I usually am at UKPC, in a Pony T-shirt. I never wear jeans (denim slightly irritates my skin) but I always wear glasses.

Who will you be with? Whoever can bear my company for at least some of the convention. Quite possibly various members of Team Custard at times.

What will you be doing? I have a fairly open mind this time, and money is very tight so I won't be doing as much shopping as at some previous cons. Definites include the Pub Quiz, the Charity Auction and at least a little karaoke. I also intend to go to the showing of the G4 movie.

Can I talk to you? Absolutely! Please just bear in mind that escapism is a big part of the fandom in general and this convention in particular for me. I will not appreciate it if you try to drag me into a debate about Brexit. I'd prefer if most of the conversation were actually about MLP.

What can I talk to you about? Well, you could tell me that my ponyfic is the best you've ever read, but we both know that this would be an utter lie. Unless you've never read anyone else's, I suppose. Still, ponyfic in general would be a very welcome topic. I'm happy to talk about pretty much anything Pony, though. (Except NSFW stuff, but then you shouldn't be talking about that at UKPC anyway, should you? :P )

Can I take your photo? I don't see why you'd want to, but I have no problem with being included in general scenes, so there's no need to crop me out of crowd photos etc. If you happen to video something I do, especially karaoke, I would really like to see the recording, though!

Can I hug you? I'm open to hugs, yes. Though please ask first, since I am occasionally carrying something fragile and I'd like the chance to put it somewhere safe!

How long are you staying? I'm travelling to Nottingham on Friday afternoon and returning home on Monday morning. (The timing of the latter depends to some extent on whether there's any sort of "farewell breakfast" going on near the station, as there was last year.)

Where are you staying? In the very same hotel I used for last year's con: Travelodge Nottingham Central. Reasonably convenient for pretty much everywhere and inexpensive enough that I could actually afford it. :P

How are you travelling? I'm heading to Nottingham by train, via Birmingham. I expect to pause for lunch somewhere around New Street/Grand Central, so if you see someone in a past-con T-shirt lugging a couple of bags around, it may well be me! If so, feel free to say hello. :) In the city, I'll either walk or take the tram.

Favourite characters? Fluttershy is best pony. Scootaloo is best filly. Celestia is best princess. Silverstream is best stairs enthusiast. Phyllis is best plant. Derpy is best Derpy.

Anything else I should know? Probably, but I'm having a hard enough time with the things I should know.