Monday, 20 January 2020

Lavender Alicorn Blues (WVMIP)

WMVIP stands for "Work Very Much in Progress"! Since a couple of people said they'd be interested in hearing "Lavender Unicorn Blues", here it is. As you will hear, I am not cut out for a career as a blues singer! On top of which, I have a slight sore throat and haven't done any singing since UK PonyCon in October. But I decided to record the vocals rather than just posting it as an instrumental.

As you'll also note, my recording and mixing equipment is primitive to say the least. I don't own anything resembling a high-end microphone, and the outlay to get one is simply not reasonable for the amount I'd use it. So the vocals were recorded on my phone. Then I used Audacity to mix the singing track with the instrumental track I'd made with MuseScore. The result is what you see above.

Other notes: the score is not finished, which accounts for things like the very basic drum track and the lack of any left hand on the piano. There are also a couple of actual mistakes (eg at the start of the bridge) and those I probably will be able to fix. The MuseScore soundfont, though, is as good as you're going to get. As with the mic, I really can't justify shelling out for a better one.

Lyrics are in the video description, but I'll copy them in here – come past the cut to see them! I think I want to change "lose" in the final line to "beat", and perhaps a few other bits and pieces, but the gist of it isn't going to change.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

My Little Repeats 23: "The Cutie Mark Chronicles"

"And now you can deal with the seventeen manticores you also summoned..."
S1E23: "The Cutie Mark Chronicles"
Written by M. A. Larson
15 Apr 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 9.0

The one with tree sap.

Thoughts: Perhaps the least surprising five-star rating I've ever given! This episode is glorious. Let me count the ways. For a start, it's a brilliant example of how to write a busy, info-filled story without it feeling rushed or clunky. The reason for the Mane Six's special bond is immensely satisfying. The ponies' filly forms are absurdly cute. Filly Fluttershy sings. (Fun fact: "So Many Wonders" was the first song I ever performed at a con karaoke.) 'Shy is also a bit lanky, as you'd expect from a pony a year older than Pinkie Pie. The ep is frequently very funny – to name just one example, the cut from Rarity's section to Twilight's is supremely well done. The dialogue often fizzes: "You're going down!" "In history, maybe!" The sonic rainboom is still special at this point, and its depiction is, well, awesome. Manehattan is good, more so than it became through overuse later on. Rarity's "Dumb rock" is a nice match for her sister's "Dumb fabric" five episodes ago. We get one of the all-time classic Mane Six hug scenes. Scootaloo and (at the end) Spike's touch of cynicism help stop the sugar-sweetness becoming overpowering. Problems? Well, Fluttershy's butterfly rescue is more than a bit ludicrous. Otherwise? Er... I'll get back to you on that one. An undisputed classic, and still one of the best episodes FiM has ever produced.

Choice quote: Pinkie Pie: "And that's how Equestria was made!"

New rating: ★★★★★

Next up is "Owl's Well That Ends Well", which has never been anywhere near my favourites list. I don't expect that to change – but there's always hope!

Friday, 17 January 2020

Playing around with MuseScore

Before I begin, though, you might want to read this Fimfiction blog by paperhearts. It contains several pieces of good news, one of which in particular is likely to please discerning ponyfic readers. (That's all of us, right?)

If you're asking, "What's MuseScore?" then it's this piece of software, used for music composition and notation. I've always liked dabbling in making music, although I have very little actual ability there. A lot of music-making software out there is of the FL Studio type, and I confess I don't really understand that – and can't really justify the substantial cost in any case. However, I can read music, and so a simpler, stave-based composer is much more my scene.

What does all this have to do with My Little Pony? Simply that the title "Lavender Unicorn Blues" popped into my head one day as I was reading a particularly LUS-heavy piece of ponyfic. And, as these things do, it refused to get out of my head unless I did something about it. Of course, Twilight has ascended these days – so the piece has now been rechristened "Lavender Alicorn Blues". And yes, I do intend to post it here eventually. Buy your earplugs now!

Naturally, given the title, my stupid little gimmick is to use a LUS-style intro for each verse. To give you a little flavour of the silliness of the concept, here's the verse one – this is a draft, so don't expect it to be identical when it's finished:
A butter-yellow pegasus flew up to my tree,
She said, "Hey now, Twilight, won't you listen to me?
The bunnies are stampeding and the skunk's on the run,
The bats won't go to sleep because you won't raise the sun."
I said, "Don't tell me 'bout your mice and your shrews,
'Cause I've got those lavender alicorn blues."
It's going to be a pretty short piece – three 12-bar verses and an eight-bar bridge, totalling a mere two minutes – but that's probably for the best. The amount of blues in brony music is tiny, barring a few Wasteland Wailers tracks. While I'm obviously not in the same continent as the Wailers, and indeed not even close to my average ponyfic writing standard, I'm enjoying myself rather a lot with this. :)

Thursday, 16 January 2020

My Little Repeats 22: "A Bird in the Hoof"

Right, that's S1's two really controversial episodes out of the way – and I will admit to breathing a sigh of relief at this point. Though this next episode has the same IMDb rating as "Over a Barrel". I present that fact without comment.

"But Twilight, we don't know about Pinkie's eyepatch stash yet!"
S1E22: "A Bird in the Hoof"
Written by Charlotte Fullerton
8 Apr 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.3

The one with dungeons and banishment.

Thoughts: This is an episode I've always thought underrated. So much about it is a delight, and not just that it's full of Fluttershy doing her thing. We start off with the Alice in Wonderland-referencing cold open; actually, Angel is pretty good in support of Fluttershy more than once. We also get the birth of Trollestia, both with the teacup and because she could easily have just told Flutters that Philomena was a phoenix. I love that 'Shy – S1 'Shy at that – does something impulsive, because her kindness and need to care for animals trump her caution. She's also shown as resourceful and patient when treating Philomena. Pretty much the entire scene with Twilight in Flutters' cottage is wonderful, from the "dry night air" to "tough love, baby" to the hilarious section with the Royal Guards; I think having Flutters being the grounded one and Twilight freaking out was a great choice. And of course there's the show's second (and easily the better) Benny Hill parody. There are a few downsides. A little too much mildly gross physical humour for my liking, for one, and Celestia's strange address of Fluttershy as "child". I suspect my rating will be higher than most people's, but for me, this one really does deserve four stars.

Choice quote: Rarity: "Nobody move and my dress won't get hurt!"

New rating: ★★★★

Next up is "The Cutie Mark Chronicles". Enough said.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Ponyfic Roundup 279

Read it Later story count: 227 (-4)

Back to a regular edition of Ponyfic Roundup today. I've been very busy with one thing and another over the past week, and at one point I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to get this post up today. Thankfully, I just about made it in the end! There are four stories under my somewhat rickety microscope this time, and they are:

Where Does Magic Come From? by Berry Delight
ReSpec(t) by Petrichord
If Memory Serves by Pascoite
Big Sister by DeeJay Pon3

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

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

My Little Repeats 21: "Over a Barrel"

Remember when this scene was used to "prove" FlutterDash?
S1E21: "Over a Barrel"
Written by Dave Polsky
25 Mar 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 7.3

The one with horse-drawn horse-drawn carriages.

Thoughts: Main complaint first: the moral equivalence drawn here is just bad. This is clearly buffalo land that's been invaded by Appleoosan ponies, yet by the end of the episode we're fed the idea that both have equal rights to it. I get why this show does it this way, and I think it can be risky to equate Equestria to Earth. But the resonances here are too much to ignore. I understand the show engaged a Native American consultant, and as like most English people I've never so much as met a Native American in the flesh, I'd be well out of my depth commenting on that. Well, beyond perhaps to say that Rainbow Dash is interesting in her full-throated conversion to the buffalo cause. So, to other matters. The episode is really rather funny. I've always liked the stallion-hauled train (more so than the cutesy Friendship Express). Braeburn is good value. Little Strongheart is a nice character. I like that a non-pony (Spike) gets on better with the buffalo. Pinkie's song is nicely done, given it's in-universe terrible. The pie fight, absurd and somewhat unPony as it may be, is entertaining. Both Thunderhooves and Silver Star are shown as personally brave leaders. And of course there's that lovely-looking candlelit scene on the train, where Fluttertree was born. This could easily have been a strong(heart) three for me, but I just can't ignore the basic unfairness of it all. That knocks off a full star.

Choice quote: Twilight: "Well, that was kinda huffy." Fluttershy: "Huffy the magic dragon."

New rating: ★★

Next up is "A Bird in the Hoof", which I have long considered an underrated episode. Yes, Fluttershy has something to do with this, but it's not just because she's in it. Honest, guv!

Monday, 13 January 2020

From a discussion at the Worcester meet on S8/S9

I was at the Worcester Shires' first meet of 2020 on Saturday, and very enjoyable it was too. One of the many things we talked about was our enjoyment or otherwise of later FiM seasons and episodes. While I can't remember everything we discussed, and not all of it would make sense out of context anyway, one thing that was interesting was just how many S8 and S9 episodes were considered good-or-better by at least somebody. More than I would have expected if you'd asked me to guess, to be honest.

Although my rewatch series may eventually change this, right now my feeling is that S8 is my least favourite season of the show. Even there, though, there are the likes of "Surf and/or Turf", "The Break Up Breakdown", "The Hearth's Warming Club", "Road to Friendship", "What Lies Beneath" and "Sound of Silence", any one of which I would happily watch if I happened to switch on Tiny Pop while it was playing. There are several more (eg "Grannies Gone Wild" and "The Washouts") that got at least qualified support.

Much the same applied to S9 – though I was interested that there were more complaints about S9 episodes than about S8 ones. Whether that's just because they're fresher in our minds, I don't know, but it goes against the general feeling that S9 > S8. Bearing in mind that the epilogue's popularity with most (though not, until the last few minutes, me) may fade with time, I do wonder whether S8 may eventually end up being liked more than S9, or at least being about on its level. And whether I may end up feeling that way too.

That's one great thing about a show that ran for nine years and over 200 episodes – even though there won't be any more FiM instalments, there's still always something to talk about. Good news for those of us who maintain blogs about it!