Monday, 12 November 2018

The future for Louder Yay

That title is carefully chosen. If I'd written "The future of..." then it might have come across as implying that this blog was on its way out. I'd like to make it clear that this is not the case. I am still very much enjoying MLP and its fandom, and I don't intend to stop Louder Yay any time soon, or to repurpose it as something entirely different. With that out of the way, here's what's in my thoughts at the moment.

Right now, I'm doing my "Sounds of 2011" posts about what was popular in brony music in the first full year of the fandom. I can't imagine these have enormously wide appeal these days, and I'm conscious of the fact that they take up a lot of the blog. Nevertheless, I do enjoy writing them and I intend to carry on (with one tweak, which I'll explain tomorrow) until the chart is complete. If I do 2012 and 2013, and it is an if, I'll probably adopt a more concise format.

At some point I'll do a post-season review, in which I'll touch on topics such as the Student Six's introduction, my favourite and least favourite episodes, how S8's new writers have performed... and, as always, I'll assess how the season treated Fluttershy. I'd quite like to make this an audio review (in which case I'll stick a title card on it and put it on YouTube), but there'll be a text version here too.

It's widely believed, including by me, that S9 will be the final season of Friendship is Magic. While nothing is certain until publicly confirmed by Hasbro, I would be very surprised indeed if S10 became a thing. I do think it's more than possible that S9 may be followed by a 44-minute post-season special in order to wrap the whole series up in a reasonably unhurried way, but that's as far as it goes.

Once the show is over and done with for good, there'll be no new episodes for me to review. My current plan is to fill this gap by rewatching FiM in its entirety and giving my thoughts on each episode in turn. This will not take the form of a full-length review of each ep, as that would be just too much work. Instead, I'll probably write a paragraph for each one, pointing out whatever catches my attention.

If I do this marathon rewatch as I currently plan, it will be done at a reasonable pace. My current thinking is to watch two or three episodes a week. I would certainly include FiM specials and the movie. I might also add Equestria Girls movies and specials, but I'm unlikely to include the EqG shorts; there are too many and most of them don't interest me enough. At a guess, the whole thing might take me a couple of years.

One current feature I intend to carry on with is Ponyfic Roundup. There aren't many of us regular fanfic reviewers still standing, and the stuff still interests me enough that I'm willing to read at least a few fics each week and write about them. Even though Fimfiction has steadily fewer new non-Mature stories submitted each month, there are still more than enough from the past seven years that I haven't read.

And then there's G5. Rumours and leaks aside, we know more or less nothing about G5. I intend to give it a chance, and I think my slightly broadening MLP horizons since I started watching G1 from time to time may help this. I no longer feel that FiM is the only Pony with any merit at all. I'm not sure how much I'll cover G5 as a show and any films it might produce, but that's a wait-and-see thing for now.

If UK PonyCon continues and if I continue to attend, I'll still write about that. The same goes for any other cons that may still spring up. G4 merch is likely to be sold for some time after the end of FiM – it was still fairly easy to find G3 merch in UK shops in late 2012 – so that's another possibility. I'll probably continue to avoid all that much coverage of Fandom Drama™, though. It's rarely interested me greatly.

So, there you have it. Louder Yay will continue, subject to anything in my life making it impossible for that to happen. I can't promise that I won't leave the fandom entirely, but what I know about myself suggests that it's unlikely. I strongly suspect that I'll be a My Little Pony fan in some way for the rest of my life. If there's anything you'd especially like to see me cover after S9, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

UK of Equestria's overall S8 ranking list

As happens each year, once again those of us on UK of Equestria have been supplying lists of how we rank this season's Friendship is Magic episodes. Double episodes count as one, so respondents were asked to provide a list running from 1 to 24. (No ties in individual lists are permitted, though they can still occur in the overall ranking.) We had 15 people take part this season, which is exactly the same as for S7. I actually find that rather encouraging at this point in the show's run.

The tier boundaries here, which differ from those I use on UK of E, are decided very simply. Any episode which has an average rating of five or better (one would mean every single respondent ranked it top!) gets five stars. From there to ten gets four stars, and so on. This does of course have the fault that it doesn't take account of how the season as a whole was received, only the relative positions of episodes within it.

1. What Lies Beneath

2. School Raze (finale)
3. Surf and/or Turf
4. On the Road to Friendship
5. Sounds of Silence
6. The Washout
7. The Hearth's Warming Club

8. School Daze (premiere)
9. The Break Up Breakdown
10. Horse Play
11. The Mean 6
12= Molt Down
12= A Rockhoof and a Hard Place
14. Marks for Effort
15. The Parent Map
16. Fake It 'Til You Make It

17. Friendship University
18. A Matter of Principals
19. Father Knows Beast
20. The Maud Couple
21. Grannies Gone Wild
22. The End in Friend
23. Yakity-Sax

24. Non-Compete Clause

Number of times each episode placed first
3: Sounds of Silence
3: What Lies Beneath
2: On the Road to Friendship
2: School Raze
1: The Break Up Breakdown
1: Friendship University
1: The Hearth's Warming Club
1: Horse Play
1: Surf and/or Turf

Number of times each episode placed last
13: Non-Compete Clause
1: The End in Friend
1: Father Knows Beast

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Horse Play
2. The Mean 6
3. Fake It 'Til You Make It
4. A Matter of Principals

Least controversial
1. Non-Compete Clause
2. The End in Friend
3. Yakity-Sax
4. What Lies Beneath

No episode this time was universally liked. The season finale was a close call: 14 people voted it in their top nine, but one placed it 22nd. "What Lies Beneath" had a similar, if rather less dramatic, distribution: it garnered 14 top-eight places and a lone 14th. At the bottom, "Non-Compete Clause" was almost universally strongly disliked: it managed one 15th place, one 23rd – and everyone else put it dead last. The AJ/RD character regression was hugely unpopular.

Unlike last year with "Fame and Misfortune", I wasn't sure in advance what would win "Most controversial episode" this season. As things turned out, it was "Horse Play", whose rankings ranged between first and 23rd. It partly depended for many on what they thought of the cringe comedy in Celestia's acting. The greatest agreement was in the poorness of "Non-Compete Clause", and in fact there was a high degree of consensus about the bottom three.

S8 has had a rather mixed reception overall. I think it's probably fair to say that most people find it a step down from S7, although the Student/Young Six are generally very popular. Without the students, I think this season could really have struggled to win favour. Personally I would still place it above S6 overall, but maybe not by as much as I'd have liked. It may have to wait until I've let things settle a bit before I'm really sure where I feel it stands.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 86 to 84

It's BronyScot this weekend, so I wish a great time to everyone there! As for me down here in England, it's that time again, which is to say the time when Logan doesn't have anything else to post and so resorts to putting up an episode of this. (By the way, Pony Music Library hasn't been forgotten about. There should be a new PML inductee fairly soon.)  

Update: the three songs that would fit here have now been skipped, as they don't fit my new criteria. To be featured, I want tracks to be at least one of:
1) Still available from the artist's own account(s)
2) Archived, but with evidence that the artist is okay with this
3) So famous that they're everywhere anyway
Join me next time, when I'll be featuring... music! Yes, there's a song coming up that does meet the above criteria.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Merch review: Carry-Along Colouring Set

With no episode-related posts at the moment, there's a little more space on Louder Yay than usual for me to post other things. Those of you who read the blog years ago will remember that I used to make a moderate amount of merchandise-related posts. Those have rather fallen by the wayside in recent times, but now seems as good a moment as any to bring them back, at least as an occasional series.

15cm ruler for scale; it is not included in the set
The Carry-Along Colouring Set has been around for a very long time. In the last year or two it's been given a slightly updated cover, but in essence it's the same as it was when it first emerged from Alligator Publishing in 2011. Even then, of course, those cover vectors weren't new! An interesting choice of cover ponies, especially given that in the early days of G4 most merch went for the predictable trio of Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. Here, Twilight and Pinkie don't appear at all.

Inside, you get about 60 pages of pictures to colour and other simple activities of the sort aimed at young children – the book is aimed at kids aged 3+. These really are simple, being of the "count the butterflies" or "connect the dots" type. To help you do this, you're provided with five small wax crayons. These come in five colours, to match the Mane Six (except Rarity), but all their barrels are pink with the My Little Pony logo and a small vector of Fluttershy. They're held in by a cheapo bit of brown cardboard.

Look at that sticky tape! I do everything very professionally!
That's about it, except to note that the carrying handle is made of fairly flimsy cardboard and will be too small for most adult hands. The set has usually sold for £1, and it really is hard to quibble about corners being cut when you can get this for a quid. It's not as easy to find as it was, but try Wilko or The Range. The set in the photos here was one of the first bits of Pony merch I bought (hence the condition!) and I don't think I'd buy another. But it does a job and does it adequately. A pretty clear case for an average rating, I think.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 88 and 87: Andrea Libman special!

Oh, all right, these songs aren't actually sung by Andrea Libman – but today in this series, we do have one track with Pinkie Pie's name in the title and one with Fluttershy's. Hence the subject line! Off we go, then.

Warning: this video contains some cartoonish gore of the "Cupcakes" kind

The first track today was inspired by S1's "Party of One", which for quite some time in the early days consistently came near the top of fans' all-time best episode lists. I'm not sure it would now, but nevertheless this song by setzertrancer remains a good listen. Although its creator doesn't seem to be active in the fandom any more, they re-uploaded the song to their channel in October 2017 (thank you!), which makes things easy for me here – and is especially appreciated because the MP3 I have in my collection of these Top 100 songs cuts off about three-quarters of the way through!

This is a ponified parody of 3 Doors Down's big 2009 rock hit "Kryptonite", and it keeps a pretty similar sound to the original, though with perhaps a little more echo than I'd have ideally liked. The lyrics, however, are changed to be from the point of view of Pinkie: the chorus opens with "If I go crazy then you can call me Pinkamena". The video above – which I'm not that fond of, if I'm honest – gives the artist's name on-screen as EdgeOfEverfree, so I guess they changed it at some point; it's up under setzertrancer now, though. The highest quality version I can find is the 192kbps MP3 available on

Looking at the title of this track, you might think it was a mashup of All Levels at Once's "Fluttershy's Lament" and WoodenToaster's "Avast Fluttershy's Ass" – but you'd be only half right. The first bit is correct, but in fact ALaO's song is being mashed up with the original "Avast Your Ass". That's a song by Kitsune^2 which actually has its genesis as a piece called, er, "Fuckin Sick Ass Shit" way back in 2008 (on FurAffinity, believe it or not). Pokey Smokes' mashup is a fairly successful effort, apart from an awkward section around the three-minute mark involving CMC samples, which it's a relief to discover doesn't last long.

Pokey Smokes (named after one of Pinkie's guesses at Nightmare Moon's identity in the S1 premiere) used a channel named whitzzzzzzz, with the Pony songs all bearing the Pokey Smokes name. This channel hasn't been updated since July 2012, but "Avast Fluttershy's Lament" was by far their most successful track. There are three download links in the description of the above video, but sadly all are now dead. Fortunately, it's to the rescue once again, as there you can find a downloadable 320k MP3 of the song.

Next time: a triple bill! This one will include rapping, French and rock. Of a sort.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 225: Many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse

Shrink Laureate is running a fun-looking writing contest: the Season 9 Bingo Writing Contest. Don't worry, you don't need to write about S9! The way it works is that when the contest opens in a few days (for some reason the exact date hasn't been specified), you'll get dealt five cards from the S9 bingo set, and you then have to write a fic of 1k-20k words featuring at least two of those things. The more you include the better.

There's a sample set on the post I linked to above, to give you the idea. Stories have to be submitted before S9 begins on Discovery Family in the US (I know that date isn't yet known), and you'll then get a week to tidy them up before judging begins. I've put my name down, since it's about time I wrote a story that wasn't just about custard. There are plenty of places left, so feel free to join in!

Read it Later story count: 294 (+2)

Just to remind folks, my rating system is skewed to allow me to distinguish between good, excellent and fantastic stories. A two-star rating is average, not bad. Anyway, I have four fics under the microscope today. I'm not entirely certain where I got a microscope from, but oh well. I've been reading:

Blue Steel Railway by B_25
Peachy Pie and Misty Moon Keep the Realm Safe Until Dinnertime by Pascoite
Quills and Sofas by Just Horsing Around
Better by Unbridled

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

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Flying east for fun and profit

Austraeoh has received an Equestria Daily feature. For his own reasons, Imploding Colon (yeah, I know he's shortskirtsandexplosions, but I like to stick to the names people use) apparently didn't submit it until six years after it had been finished. For what it's worth, my own opinion on the story was distinctly mixed. I reviewed it in Ponyfic Roundup 31 back in 2014 and scored it 6.5/10 – that's a moderate three-star rating in my current system. I haven't re-read it, so I can't say whether my opinion would be different if I reviewed the fic now. I'm sure the obsession with "ruby eyes" (used 57 times!) would still drive me up the wall, though.

Also in ponyfic news, EqD has a short interview with Pen Stroke, author of "Past Sins" (which I reviewed in PR 48) and various other stories. At a time when the site is adding more and more visual art coverage (eg the anthro and weekly open art posts) writing has been feeling increasingly marginalised. Perhaps inevitable at a time when falling viewership means Seth and co have to go for maximum eyeballs, but beyond the usual round of stories being featured, we don't get thrown many bones these days. Fimfiction is generally a better place for discussion anyway. It's nice to see some extra fanfic coverage on EqD for a change. :)

Monday, 5 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 90 and 89

Update: I have changed my mind and am now skipping these two songs. They don't meet my new criteria of being one or more of the following:
1) Available from the artist's own account(s)
2) Archived, but with evidence the artist is okay with this
3) So famous that they're everywhere anyway
Next time: a parody, plus something familiar-but-not.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The three ages of Pony

Tagging this as an "essay" is really pushing it, but it's more than just "musing"... I've thought for quite a while that you can divide Friendship is Magic into three broad eras. The divisions aren't hard and fast, and it wouldn't be all that difficult to argue for a two-era classification instead. For what it's worth, though, here's how I see it:

Original Pony
This consists of the first three seasons – which in another reality might easily have ended up being all we got of FiM. I remember that we were all on tenterhooks until we actually saw the first ads for S4. In the Original Pony era, the show is strongly Mane Six-focused, with only occasional diversions to the CMC etc. The wider story is centred on Ponyville and the episodes are generally domestic and relatively low-stakes, apart from season premieres and finales. The roster of writers remains pretty stable, with only a few comings and goings.

Although Lauren Faust has said that the story she had originally planned could not have survived beyond "A Canterlot Wedding" – not least the introduction of a third alicorn princess – most S3 episodes could actually have been slotted into late S1 without too much difficulty. Other than the finale, the major exception is "Keep Calm and Flutter On" and it's arguable that Discord's reformation, rather than Twilight's ascension, is actually the beginning of the end for Original Pony.

Transition Pony
This covers seasons 4 and 5, a relatively short period but one in which we see some very large changes. The CMC get their cutie marks and Diamond Tiara is reformed. Starlight Glimmer makes her debut, even if she doesn't become a regular until S6. Twilight loses her home in the comfortable, homely library and has to start again in the new hard-edged castle, and in a two-era version of this post, that would be the dividing line. Many of the original writers depart: Amy Keating Rogers, Cindy Morrow, Merriwether Williams and (one S7 oddity apart) M. A. Larson, whose sublime "Amending Fences" provides the high water mark of FiM as we'd known it.

Meanwhile, a number of new writers come on board, including the likes of Natasha Levinger, Corey Powell, Nick Confalone – and most notably, Josh Haber. His debut episode, "Castle Mane-ia", is in retrospect very significant, and not only because it introduced the Journal of Friendship. It is also the first episode that could not have been made in the Original Pony era, being something more akin to Scooby-Doo with ponies. Haber would go on to be a major influence on the show's direction as both writer and showrunner.

New Pony
From here onwards, we're in the modern era. Apart from Dave Polsky who hangs on into S6, all the original writers are gone, and there's a fair case for saying that the show plays a little more fast and loose with lore and continuity from this point. You rarely now get a reminder that the ponies are directly responsible for much of Equestrian Nature, not like you did in the "Winter Wrap Up" days. FiM has become something just a little closer to a "wacky cartoon antics" show, albeit with the significant difference of characters with depth who are shown to grow on-screen.

Technically, the show is better than ever, with the sumptuous "A Hearth's Warming Tail" being a delight for both eyes and ears. On the downside (for some) there's less attention paid to keeping the universe consistent: the composition of the teaching staff at the School of Friendship is clearly a logical nonsense. And the Mane Six themselves become less central, with the likes of Starlight, Trixie, the reformed changelings and latterly the Student Six taking some of the limelight.

So, where are we?
It's understandable that this rather changed show is not to every fan's taste, and it probably is true to say that the quality of the writing has suffered a bit with no-one left in that department who was around for the Original Pony days when much of the world's lore was established. However, that doesn't make today's FiM a bad cartoon, just a different one. My guess is that S9 will be part of the New Pony era rather than taking off in a totally different direction, and you know what? I'm okay with that.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 92 and 91: Applejack fights, MandoPony celebrates

I shall be doing a number of multiple-track posts during this series, since otherwise it's going to take years to complete. A double bill for you today...

Remember Fighting is Magic? If you've been in the fandom a few years, then of course you do. You may even have played it. One of the most infamous C&Ds in the fandom's history came when Hasbro ordered the end of the Pony-themed fighting game at a point when it was already in playable alpha. Lauren Faust herself took an interest and offered to design some lawyer-compliant original characters. The eventual result was Them's Fightin' Herds, released on Steam Early Access in February. (Mind you, it's still Early Access...)

Although the original game didn't get finished, we did get to hear a lot of its music. One such track was this AJ-themed instrumental by erstwhile chiptune specialist RainbowCrash88, now known simply as RC88. It's unsurprisingly a country-style piece, full of activity and attitude and twangy banjo licks, and it works just as well as background music to type to as it does in the game. Should you wish to hear it in high quality, you can purchase the track for $1 from RC88's Bandcamp. Oh, and I mentioned Them's Fightin' Herds? He provided music for that, too!

The last track remains pretty well played to this day. This one? Unless you were around Equestria Daily way back in December 2011, maybe not so much. MandoPony wrote this to celebrate EqD reaching 80 million hits. I'm not sure how many it has now (the banner seems to have been quietly removed) but it's hundreds and hundreds of millions. For some years, EqD was the place to hang out in a way it isn't quite so much today – though, in line with my policy of being as odd as possible, I spend far more time there now than I did when I was a newbie in 2012.

The song was a victim of MandoPony's slimming-down of his Pony back catalogue on YouTube a while back, and the above video is the only one I know of now. Bizarrely, you can buy a karaoke version for 50 cents from MandoPony's Bandcamp, but as far as I can tell he doesn't offer the original at all. Maybe he doesn't like the way he sings, but I think it's fine for a song like this: a catchy, light-hearted, poppy celebration of the then-still-novel idea of a My Little Pony fan blog getting tens of millions of hits. It's worth a listen, especially if you remember the fandom of 2011 yourself.

Next time on Sounds of 2011: another double feature, with two more songs that are now pretty darn obscure but which were obviously fairly well known seven years back.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Best Gift Ever"

Kicking off the last TRR for a while – well, unless S9 unexpectedly starts next month or something – and you'll note a very different slate of reviewers from usual. Many of the regulars don't have anything that I could find (not even Derpy News!) yet one or two non-regulars have written pieces. Dark Qiviut is back, and we have a brand new reviewer in Mike Cartoon Pony. Huzzah!

So, out of nine reviewers this time, two outright disliked the special, two thought it was okay and five either really liked or even loved it. I'd say that was a pretty good return. As with "A Hearth's Warming Tail", predictability didn't get in the way of enjoyment for those reviewers who liked most of the other stuff. My 4/5 rating puts me in with the pack this time round.

Dark Qiviut – negative (graded D+; "There were a lot of sweet moments here, including the ending, but overall, this was a colossal disappointment.")

DrakeyC – fairly positive ("Was fine. Cute, had some fun moments, decent song, good cameos. It was fine. But, shouldn't it have aired like, a month and a half later?")

geeky things – mildly positive (rated 6/10; "the plot is that of your typical christmas special and it goes exactly how you think it would go but [...] has the right amount of humor either way the story is well told")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "Loved the music, the writing, the comedy, pretty much everything about this special.")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 4/5; "The adjective that most comes to mind is "warm-hearted", and that will do me very nicely.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – very positive ("predictable [...] But, this is easily one of the best new Pony things I've seen since the Movie got me on board a year ago")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 8.5/10; "predictable story [but] everything else [...] truly helped capture the feeling of the magic of the holiday season")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "a mish-mash of older episodes thrown into the pudding [that] comes out as stale, years-old gingerbread")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("One of the best things about this special is that everypony got a lot of screen time! [Though] why couldn't they have added Starlight into the fun?")

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 224: Light up, light up, as if you have a choice

Read it Later story count: 292 (-5)

A day late this week, but here's PR once again. As has been the case most weeks in recent months, I'm short of the five fics I'd really like to be reviewing. I don't know why I keep apologising for this, since it doesn't seem to be changing anything. Oh well, I guess some reviews is better than no reviews. One of the fics is longer than sometimes, too. Here's the little selection I have for you today:

So That's What a Wingboner Is... by Fire Gazer the Alchemist
Sundowner Season by Cherax
Basement Ducks by ocalhoun

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

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Sounds of 2011, no. 93: "Rainbow Thrash"

Apologies for the delay to Ponyfic Roundup this week – it's all down to my stupidity in accidentally deleting my write-up before it went live! I do still have my notes, so I can easily rewrite the post. As such, PR 224 will be along tomorrow.

Some brony musicians blaze only briefly across the sky, leaving us with mere hints of their abilities. A good example is Phileo, whose one and only contribution to the MLP fandom was "The Way She Flies". However, others are far more enduring, and British rock'n'metal guitar specialist PrinceWhateverer is most definitely one of those. After all, just a few weeks ago he released "Solidarity", a well-received tribute to the continuing strength of the Pony fandom. If we take him at his word, he won't be leaving soon, either.

Back when "Rainbow Thrash" was released in December 2011, PrinceWhateverer had only around 200 YouTube subscribers and was relatively little known. That he now has well over 50,000 is partly due to this song, a loud, brash track about a loud, brash pony by the name of Rainbow Dash. It does betray its age in some ways, such as the slightly awkward lyrics, but the beat is insistent enough to have kept it as a fandom favourite all these years. Want it in HQ? Pay £1 on PrinceWhateverer's Bandcamp.

The video I've linked to above is actually a slightly revised version of the song, released by the artist just a couple of days after the original. The changes aren't dramatic, but I do think they improve the track. Should you wish to hear it as it first came out, that version is still around.

Next time, I'll have a double bill of music for you. One of the tracks you may well be at least reasonably familiar with. The other is a lot more obscure nowadays, though it is by a name you'll know. What are these songs? Well, that would be telling! Wait and see...

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Special review: "Best Gift Ever"

Yeah, yeah, I'm pathetically weak. But come on
Although S8 of Friendship is Magic is now over and done with, there's one more piece of related business to get out of the way before we enter what will probably be the last ever FiM inter-season hiatus. "Best Night Gift Ever" marks the first time the show has had a special, which is odd considering how popular it's been. You'd think they'd have made one a few years ago. Still... this was written by Michael Vogel, and given that his strong record includes the fabulous "A Hearth's Warming Tail" I had high hopes. In the event...

Monday, 29 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018: Merch Haul and Final Thoughts

This was a lot trickier to photograph than you'd think!
And so we reach the final part of my look back at this year's UK PonyCon. In a minute, I'll give some of my thoughts about it. First, of course, the merch haul photo! I was on a fairly tight budget this year, so it's not a huge one. If you've been reading along, you already know about the Team Custard picture by StewArt (BBQ) at bottom left and the cute little original canvas of Scootaloo by Jowy at bottom middle. The con book and asssociated Crystal Ball programme are pretty self-evident, too.

Other than that? Well, the 3D printed exclusive Britannia figure is at bottom right, sitting on the con tote bag. That has the same design as the con T-shirt at top left. Three badges: my VIP and general UKPC ones, plus a Scootaderp I picked up from somewhere. The A4 Fluttershy, Rainbow and Rarity prints are by Ponebooth. Halfway up on the right is one of the ultra-cute Fluttershy cards I bought from EileMonty. Oh, and there's a con badge in there too. :P One or two other things will be presents so aren't shown here.

It's EQUUS accredited now, too!
So that's that. Now, on to what I thought of UK PonyCon 2018. In a word? It was great. Of the seven cons I've been to, this was my favourite. The venue was pretty nice, spacious, light and very well located – and in most Octobers probably wouldn't have been as hot. The venue staff were excellent, there were places to sit down and rest, the acoustics for the concert were reasonable for a non-dedicated space and the cloakroom was handy. The one significant minus I'll get to in a bit.

UK PonyCon is a much larger event than it was in 2014 – when it certainly didn't have 1,000 attendees or 50 vendors! – but it seems to have succeeded in keeping its friendliness, multi-gen appeal and all-ages mix. Personally I wouldn't like it to get too much larger even if the committee had unlimited resources (cue hollow laughter from UKPC Towers), but balanced against that is the fact that it keeps on selling out. I suppose all they can do is to tweak things as seems appropriate; so far they've done a very good job.

Plushie Stacking was not an official event...
The Crystal Ball concert, 2018's (effective) innovation, was very nice and it looks like something similar may be back next year. There was an interesting question in the feedback form about this, asking how it should be ticketed. Personally I'd much prefer UKPC to remain all-inclusive, and would accept a modest bump in ticket prices for that. Things like the Escape Room this year (which did cost extra) were nice touches but peripheral; I'd consider the Crystal Ball much more integral to the main con schedule.

My least favourite option would be a voluntary supplement; those tend to make people feel under pressure to pay. If you have to charge extra, do so properly and ticket separately, as with the con meal. That said, BronyScot's Rock Nessie and the old Summer Sun Celebration at BUCK have/had no clash with the main con programme. The Crystal Ball did. Assuming putting it on Friday/Sunday evening isn't an option, that clash is still going to be there. Another reason for keeping things all-in.

The only shot I got of PrinceWhateverer, during his sound check
I was pleased with the number of events on the schedule this year, and the only major clashes for me were Crystal Ball/Pub Quiz and StormBlaze/EileMonty; luckily all of those ended up with good attendances. It was good to see a fair bit of G1 content, too. Apart from the heat, the event rooms were good: quite spacious, with decent acoustics and lighting too. The vendor hall was fine, with room to move between people shopping. Signage could maybe have been slightly better, but it wasn't too bad.

Right, now to the one real disappointment. The catering provision, though friendly and cheap, was not sufficient for the attendance. Nor was it reasonable to have only drinks on sale on Saturday evening, even if the pony-themed concoctions were fun. UWE in Bristol's café last year, also in a uni-run venue, was better in most respects, despite that con having a slightly lower attendance. Just because we're in a city centre venue doesn't mean we all want to walk through the rain to McDonald's to get an evening bite.

They could get a thousand people in here, right? Right?
I touched briefly on ticket prices earlier. This year UKPC kept Standard Adult Weekend entry at £35, the same as in 2017, by withdrawing Early Bird discounts. I felt that was a reasonable approach. It's always a delicate balancing act, as simple maths will tell you that above-inflation rises aren't sustainable indefinitely, but I would be okay with a small rise next year. Say the basic ticket is £39; that would be a rise of 11.4%, which should help to offset some costs. Supporter tickets at £49 would be reasonable, too.

Where should they hold the 2019 con? UKPC these days needs a big venue: I used to think Wolverhampton Grand Station could be an option, but it may be too small now. As for host city: four of the last five UKPCs have been in the East Midlands (Leicester x 2, Nottingham) or just above (Leeds). So looking at other options... Liverpool? Birmingham? Milton Keynes? Southampton? Swansea? Newcastle? Norwich? Wherever is announced, some people are bound to be disappointed. I do not envy the committee on this one!

Beachball shenanigans during "Awesome As I Wanna Be"
Finally, my highlight of the convention. Well, actually the answer is a rather sappy one: it was the magic of spending time with friends, most of whom I wouldn't know without MLP and some of whom I only ever get to see at conventions. Equally, the biggest downside was missing those friends who for various reasons were unable to make it. And you were missed. But if I have to choose one highlight other than that? "I am Octavia", of course. I will never, ever stop being thrilled and grateful to have had that chance.

There we go: Logan's rambly, waffly thoughts on what I truly believe has become one of the great fandom events of the year. No, it's not BUCK or BronyCon or AnyOtherCon. It's not supposed to be, and it's all the better for that. It's UK PonyCon. It stands or falls on its own merits, and judged on that score it most definitely stands. I had immense fun at this year's convention and it made me very, very happy to be in this fandom. That's something everyone involved in making it happen should be very proud of. Thank you.

The sun sets on UK PonyCon 2018

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Sounds of 2011, no. 94: "Autumn"

I should have the final part of my UK PonyCon report up tomorrow, but in the meantime let's get back to Sounds of 2011, my series dealing with what Everfree Radio's listeners voted their top 100 tracks for that year.

Back in the dim and distant days of November 2011, Derpy being a mailmare was pure canon. Also back then, we saw the concept EP by Griffin Village, consisting of four seasonally-named tracks. Although it ranks the lowest of the four in this series, "Autumn" – sometimes referred to as "Autumn (Derpy Hooves)" – is probably the one that remains the most popular today. "I know a mare / She knows me too / The stunning Derpy Hooves / Or Ditzy Doo" remains a fairly widely recognised opening in the fandom.

It's a gently synthy track by Floridian Jackle App, once a huge name in the fandom but someone whose last Pony music seems to have been "Sweetiecut" from May 2012. This paean to Derpy was released when we were only four episodes into S2, so the controversy of Derpygate was still some way in the future. It's also the origin of the "Trot with me through the autumn leaves" chorus, which these days may be better known from The Living Tombstone's "Good ol' Days". If you want to hear "Autumn" in HQ – and surely you do – there's a $1 download on Jackle App's Bandcamp.

Next time, Sounds of 2011 will have another original track, and one which represented a significant early outing for one of the fandom's most enduring musicians.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Text Review Roundup: "School Raze"

Right, let's get this done, then it'll just be the holiday special before I can take a break from TRR for a bit! "School Raze" got a generally positive reaction with a few major dissenters, something that's pretty common for finales – the final episodes of seasons 5 and 6 also went a similar way. No Railfan Brony this time, as they've chosen to do a video review. That's balanced by TRR welcoming GuardianSoulMLP.

Cuddlepug – very negative (graded D; "Quite frankly, “School Raze” is a disaster [...] quite baffling how poorly written, illogical and nonsensical it all is. ")

Derpy News – mixed (graded B+; "This finale unfortunately ends up on the lower end in comparison to other season finales with only “To Where and Back Again” and “Best Night Ever” being below it.")

The Dragon Warlock – wildly positive (graded A+; "School Raze [...] manages to blow me away [...] Cozy may actually be the best villain the show has put out [...] I haven't felt this good about a finale in a long time")

DrakeyC – very negative ("the good - Neighsay [...] The bad, unfortunately, is everything else. [Cozy Glow] makes no sense at any point [...] a leaky mess of a story held together by two strips of duct tape and a lot of prayers")

GuardianSoulMLP – very positive ("HOLY CHEESECAKE ON A STICK!!! That was so epic!! :D")

JDPrime22 – positive (rated 9/10; "Cozy wants to take over [...] for no reason or real backstory at all. She's just evil because… evil. [...] Other than that, really good finale!")

Lightening McQueen – positive ("Very good. The story was cool [...] Cozy Glow used to be one of my favourite characters, but not anymore [... b]ut Neighsay has grown on me now")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 4/5; "I suspect that it might not age terribly well [but] I did like Cozy Glow as a villain [and Neighsay's] portrayal was interesting [...] It may not have been S8's best ep, but it was surely among its most watchable.")

Mega Sean 45 – positive ("I just love how manipulative Cozy turned out to be [...] We finally get to see Tartarus for the first time, and... it was pretty underwhelming. [...] So was this my favorite finale? I'm not sure, but it's up there")

MLEEP Reviews – extremely positive (rated 10/10; "the first season finale in a really long time to truly feel like a real season finale [...] intense and suspenseful story that keeps you engaged throughout")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("The student 6 played a role like no other in this big finale.")

Thursday, 25 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Monday: One Last 'Spoons

Saying goodbye to Nottingham
I got plenty of sleep on Sunday night, since there was no need to get up early on Monday morning. I'd arranged with Hawthorn that we'd go to the 10am farewell breakfast that had been advertised at the Company Inn. You can guess who runs this pub, can't you? :P I finished tidying up my room and checking for anything I'd left behind, then said goodbye to it and went to check out. The staff member on the desk was excellent and apologised for Saturday night's noise even though it wasn't his fault.

I lugged my bags down to the lobby and looked up to see that Ialyrn and Bearpaw were coming down the stairs. I hadn't seen them much during the weekend as they'd been doing other things, so it was really nice to run into them now. A couple of minutes later Hawthorn appeared with his (much lighter) baggage and the four of us decided to set off for the pub together. Sadly this was another day of thin, cold rain, and although the walk only took 10-15 minutes it wasn't a pleasant stroll.

Derpy at Derby: Muffin Horse looks out at the rain-soaked platforms
The Company Inn is housed in an old canal warehouse, but inside it looks like most other 'Spoons, though a little roomier than some. There were several people there already, including Jowy – who was, as he tends to be, drawing! Sadly Daft Night and a couple of others weren't able to join us before catching their trains, but Alliminaro and BBQ did make it, as did Hawker Hurricane, who I hadn't met in person before. Being the unoriginal person I am, I ordered a straight-up fried brekky and coffee.

We chatted away about this and that for a while, and I even got to talk fanfic briefly, having an interesting little discussion with BBQ on the subject. I didn't really want to leave, as this was the last truly social con experience I was going to have this year, but as the clock ticked around to noon I felt I had to get a move on and catch my train. Alliminaro came with me and we found our way through the gloom (it was still raining) to the station where we parted company.

The Last Muffin (of con weekend)
My journey back to Birmingham was pretty uneventful, and I spent most of it listening to EileMonty tracks on my phone. I didn't see anyone else who'd been to the convention, or at least anyone else who cared to acknowledge the UKPC 2018 T-shirt I was now wearing. At New Street, I made sure the piano got a few bars of the Crab Rave tune, then headed for Muffin Break one last time. It was tempting to go for their regular apple and cinnamon flavour, but orange won me over.

I walked through the by now rather harder rain to Moor Street station, smiling slightly at the trams I saw, which probably made anyone who saw me think I was very, very odd. (They weren't wrong!) My bags were too bulky to allow me to do any real shopping, and combined with the weather and my much lighter wallet than on Friday I decided not to pick up any pony plushies at Tokyo Toys. Once again my train journey was smooth but uneventful, and I was home by late afternoon.

Britannia is not allowed to let you back into the building
And that was my UK PonyCon 2018. It felt odd to be going back to my own house, rather than to a hotel room, even though I'd only been away since Friday. I was tired, and the first signs of con crud were making their presence felt, so I did only minimal unpacking of my purchases that evening. Still, I felt satisfied. This had undoubtedly been a hugely enjoyable and successful convention overall, with a few small niggles not detracting from the overall experience. If I can make the 2019 con, I very much want to.

Next time: Merch Haul and Final Thoughts

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 223: Con Crud Edition

Read it Later story count: 297 (-1)

The title is pretty self-explanatory this week! As you'll know if you've been reading my UK PonyCon posts, I had an excellent time at the convention. However, the eternal curse of these gatherings has struck me with a vengeance. Hopefully it will only last a few days, but for now it's tough going. Here are this week's three fics:

Living Forever... by Whateverdudezb
Pinkie's Secret Place by M_D_Quill
Be by OleGrayMane

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

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Sunday: Derpy Fever!

The pleasingly multi-gen banners (later auctioned) at Selfie Corner
Given my lack of sleep on Saturday night, I was relieved that I'd arranged with Hawthorn that breakfast on Sunday would be at 8am rather than 7:30 – the extra half-hour didn't make a huge difference, but it didn't do any harm. The reason was simply that we wouldn't need to wait to register on Sunday, so there wasn't any point in rushing to get there that early. We had another fry-up at the Joseph Else – sadly we saw no other con-goers there on either day – and tried to delay leaving as long as possible.

This was because the rain that had somehow held off for Saturday... hadn't today. The tram stop wasn't right outside the venue, and this was that unpleasant English rain that isn't very heavy but just goes on and on and on. I had one of those plasticky rain ponchos, and frankly I was glad of it. Having used up my Synthwave Fluttershy T-shirt the previous day, this time I was kitted out in Scootaloo colours. The venue cloakroom was even more welcome this time around!

Zen's OC and Ace's Sunburst "Loaf" plushies watch EileMonty's panel
Sunday is the shorter of the two UK PonyCon days, with no evening programme, and it also tends to have a more laid-back feel as most people have done the shopping they most wanted to do. Indeed, for the first hour or so I mostly just hung around with friends and chatted. At 10:30, I had a choice: StormBlaze's art panel, the mouthful of "10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Collecting MLP" or EileMonty's panel. They all looked interesting, but I plumped for the last.

Perhaps surprisingly given her outstanding performance on stage the previous night, EileMonty didn't spend the whole time fielding compliments! Instead, she gave some insights into the routine of a voice actor/singer, with some handy tips (drink lots of water!), some interesting info (did you know she's a Beano VA?) and some fun impressions too. The room was still rather too hot, so I was glad I'd taken in a bottle of water, having finally discovered a couple of unsignposted vending machines on the lower-ground floor.

The Griffish Isles flag is auctioned
I'd originally planned to stay in the same room for "MLP The Movie: Its Place in Literary History", but the heat was just too much. I did catch some of the panel, presented by a Dutch(?) person whose name I still don't know (put your name in your con book blurb, people!), but the layout of the cinema room made it easy to duck in and out without causing a disturbance so I also got in a little extra shopping and discovered a couple of new names. Also drank more water and totally forgot to look for a Sky Skimmer...

With the queues at the café again beyond what I considered sensible, I confined myself to a drink and a vending-machine chocolate bar for lunch. Then it was time for the day's big set piece: the Grand Charity Auction for long-time UKPC beneficiary the RDA. Last year's £260 top bid was comprehensively eclipsed by the £440 for a WeLoveFine flocked Derpy figure and many other lots went for plenty. The final total was a con record £4,674! We also got to see Midnight Dynasty presenting in a potato costume, though sadly this wasn't auctioned...

We all sang as "Crystal Princess", which was a cute touch
We were starting to sense by now that the end was nigh, though none of us wanted it to be (even if our wallets did!), which said something. While some did some last-minute shopping as many vendors cut prices, the rest of us headed to the karaoke room. This time I wasn't going to mess around with obscurities. What's the one song that's both well known and fits a multi-gen con? Right: "Call Upon the Sea Ponies". Suffice to say I made a much better job of this one than I had with the previous day's song!

I hung around there for a couple of hours – missing Mad Munchkin's panel, but I'd attended one of hers at a previous UKPC. Instead, I ended up meeting Alex and Kieran, people I'd only previously talked to online, so yay for that. I sang once more, making a decent go of "Flawless", which seemed to enjoy considerable popularity this year. No complaints from me there! In fact, the members of Team Custard are as we speak hard at work (*cough*) on a UKPC18-specific parody version ("We're Small Horses") which will make sense to about 12 people in the world. :P

An exciting alternative to pony stacking: Polo Pony!
The pre-closing ceremony singalong was introduced by accident in 2016 when technical hitches delayed things, but it's now an established and popular event. A couple of beachballs were chucked into the crowd for us to have fun with, though at one point things apparently got a bit too fun, with one ball going up over a side balcony, and we got a gentle telling off. We enjoyed singing lots of the classics, though I was mildly annoyed when my out-and-out favourite EqG song, "Shine Like Rainbows", was cut off halfway in favour of something bouncier. I mean, come on: "Together we stand / As the rain begins to fall" would have been perfect for Sunday's weather!

And then it was time for the end. Closing ceremonies are never exactly fun, though it was nice to be able to thank those who worked so hard to make UK PonyCon 2018 the roaring success it was. There were the usual prize awards and draw results, and as usual my raffle tickets won nothing at all. UKPC being what it is, we won't know for many months where the 2019 iteration will be held – if it's not tempting fate to assume there will be one! – not least because the committee need a darn good rest. So, reluctantly, it was time to leave.

Go home, Fluttershy, you're drunk
Once outside, Griffin and Oilyvalves (who knew Nottingham better than most of us) suggested Team Custard headed up to the Gooseberry Bush for a post-con meal. This was yet another Wetherspoons, but it did what was required in giving us plenty of food and space to have a nice chat. Far better than simply going back to a cold, empty hotel room! Sadly there wasn't space for a tabletop plushie parade (a happy memory of UKPC 2015) but after my oddly-named Ultimate Burger I did, finally, succumb to the temptation of custard with my apple crumble.

Somewhere around 9:30, Hawthorn and I bade our farewells and started back to the Travelodge. On foot; we didn't bother with a tram as it was dry by now, though there was time for one last look at the building that had until a scant few hours before been full of ponies and pony things and hundreds of happy, silly pony people. I still had my con badge around my neck, where it had hung since I got out of the shower that morning, and there was a real pang when I finally took it off after reaching my room. It was, sadly, nearly time to go home.

The ponies admire the glory that is custard
Next time: One Last 'Spoons

Monday, 22 October 2018

Episode review: S8E25/26: "School Raze"

A curious-looking Cozy Glow talks to an annoyed Chancellor Neighsay
The two faces of evil. And Chancellor Neighsay
Now then, here we go! At last we've reached the end of S8 (yeah, yeah, I know most of you reached it ages ago) and it's going to be interesting to see where things go. This finale was written jointly by Josh Haber and Nicole Dubuc, and it appears that Haber wrote the first episode while Dubuc handled the big finish. S8 has been an up-and-down affair, but I've liked the second half more, so could this finale keep that up?

Sunday, 21 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Saturday evening: Tears of Joy, Tears of Laughter

Buy VIP ticket, get evil villain badge. And G2 Silver Swirl – who was a quiz answer!
I had a date with the cinema room at 5:30pm to see, for the first time ever, the 1986 G1 movie on the big(gish) screen. I'd seen it at home so knew what to expect, but I was glad to get this opportunity – not something you'd have at a strictly brony-focused convention. I don't regret going, but it was a shame that a technical fault meant the film played noticeably too slowly, badly affecting "Nothing Can Stop the Smooze" and making the movie as a whole feel very slow-paced, even more so than it actually is.

It was well after 7pm by the time I got out of the film, and the Crystal Ball had begun. This was UK PonyCon's first real attempt at an evening concert. Steely Hooves was on stage at this point, accompanied by StormBlaze. They worked well as a duo, though sadly I only saw bits of their act. I was hungry, and for some bizarre reason there was no food on sale once the daytime café had closed. (This would get my vote for the 2018 iteration's most irritating feature; Bristol last year did better as its bar sold snacks and sandwiches.) The solution was a quick run to Tesco Express for some egg sandwiches, which I had to eat in the street owing to venue restrictions on outside food.

The Scootacanvas I bought from Jowy. The little easel came with her! :D
I was really keen to get back for 8pm, because the next act was EileMonty. I'd last seen her perform at BUCK 2013, but for various reasons had ended up elsewhere for most of her act. Five years on, I was getting an unexpected second chance. EileMonty did not disappoint, with a 13-song set that included both Pony and non-Pony tracks. We got the likes of "The Moon Rises", "Dark Horse", "The Magic Inside"... and, wonder of wonders, "I am Octavia", which I'd missed in 2013 and been kicking myself over ever since. I had found my way up to the balcony, where crowd noise was lower. It was an enormous thrill to be there for this, and I'll admit to shedding a few tears.

It would have been nice to hang around for PrinceWhateverer and BassPon3, but the Pub Quiz was calling. Team Custard represent! As usual, ultimate Derpy fan Archer was asking the questions and as usual we made a mess of many of the old-gen ones, though we ended up with a worryingly impressive (by our standards) 32 points out of 90. I'd managed to remember to buy a Galaxy bar earlier on, but in the heat of the con venue it had melted to such an extent that it was basically a drink by this point! Never mind: the whole thing was immense fun.

EileMonty performing under the stars. With a roof intervening, thankfully
After the quiz, those of us who didn't have trains to catch hung around for the Saturday finale: the Cartoon Riff. In this UKPC staple, Waterfire presents a bunch of weird and/or terrible cartoons she's collected since the previous con, and there were a couple of highlights this time. One was an anime with hilariously clunky Toblerone product placement... and the other was Crab Rave. Yeah, yeah, I know it's a popular meme – but we did it properly. Lights off, bass up, glowsticks waving. It was glorious. This is where the tears of laughter come in!

We got our coats from the cloakroom and spilled out into the street. As it was 11pm by now, few of us went on anywhere. I went straight back to the hotel and did the minimum of preparation, then sank into bed hoping for a good night's sleep... which I didn't get. There was the most almighty racket from the street below until past 4am, worse than any other city centre I've stayed in, and it was only when sirens were heard (not that kind) that I finally grabbed a couple of hours of shut-eye. Not the ideal preparation for Sunday, it has to be said.

The Crab Rave in full swing. Amazingly, the Noise Control Officers didn't come round
Next time: Derpy Fever!

Saturday, 20 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Saturday daytime: A Taste of the High Life

This year's con exclusive: a 3D printed figure of UKPC mascot Britannia
For once on a pre-con Friday night I got a reasonable amount of sleep, so getting up in time to meet Hawthorn for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning wasn't too bad. In any case, he'd arrived on a late-night Megabus, so if anyone had the right to be exhausted it was him. As the hotel restaurant didn't open until 8:00, we made our way to the Joseph Else, another 'Spoons. This was named after a local sculptor, but more importantly it did me a 1,500+ kcal breakfast and coffee while we chatted.

This pub is about ten yards from a tram stop, and this was exciting because I'd never been to a convention by tram before. (I'd had the chance for BUCK in Manchester years ago, but hadn't taken it.) Nottingham's tram network is better than Birmingham's and just a few minutes later we were making our way to the inevitable QueueCon, where I gave a wave to Griffin and BBQ/StewArt and got a hug from fursuiting con mascot Britannia. It was still blowing a gale, but otherwise the weather wasn't too bad and nobody got wet while waiting for the doors to open.

Among the first to sign the Griffish Isles flag, later auctioned for £95
For the first and quite possibly last time, I didn't have to join the regular queue, but could instead go to the VIP line on account of, well, my VIP-tier ticket. These sold out in twenty-six minutes this year, so we're talking Glastonbury levels of demand. Sort of. Moody Magpie was the only person I could find who I knew at all, so we chatted vaguely until, at 9:00 the doors opened. One of the VIP perks was being let in half an hour early. The bag check was quick – top tip: tote bags are much faster to get okayed than rucksacks with 267 pockets – and so was registration. I was in!

UK PonyCon has doubled in size in the five years I've been attending, but an endearingly homespun feel still holds on around the edges: I wrote in my own name on my con badge in biro. I also got a goodie bag: T-shirt voucher, tote bag, exclusive art print and VIP lanyard. Time to head for the vendor hall and have the first pick of the merch! Here I picked up a lovely little canvas painting of Scootaloo from Jowy's stand and some equally adorable Fluttershy-themed Christmas cards from EileMonty's. Both really nice people, I'm happy to say.

BBQ's glorious picture of Team Custard in the con book
By this time other members of Team Custard were filtering into the venue, and (as I had) discovering with surprise the fantastic cartoon of our various OCs drawn by BBQ and now appearing in the con book. There was an A4 print of it for each of us as well, which was really generous. The usual desultory early-morning singalong (because few people were inside yet!) was followed by an opening ceremony which was fine, but about which I remember pretty much nothing beyond the theme (Crystals). Sorry!

At 11:00, most of us filed into an upstairs side room for Idris's "Joining Things" panel. Not about clubs and meets, but instead literally about joining things for cosplays etc. Bolts, screws, buckles and the like, all passed around for us to have a peer at. If you've ever been to an Idris panel, you'll know that his laid-back likeability makes it feel like a relaxed chat with a mate, and so ideal to ease ourselves into the con. Idris said afterwards that he thought "Wonderbolts and Glue" might have been a good title! :D

The cosplay contest; we were in the basement, natch
There was a bit of a lull around lunchtime, so being the strange person I am, I grabbed some food – though given that breakfast, I bought only sweets and a muffin. One of the few irritations at UKPC this year was the café: the range was decent and cheap, and the staff were friendly, but one "catering pod" was insufficient for the attendance and queues sometimes got silly. We ended up going to the Roebuck for lunch, though I only had a cider. On a happier note, the water cooler and drinking fountains were extremely welcome as it was unseasonably warm and this was reflected inside.

The cosplay contest was pretty much compulsory to attend, though I must admit I rarely find them that interesting, preferring to see people's costumes as they wander more naturally around the con. A special note here for con treasurer Guiding Breeze, who had made a superb "Coinky-Dink World" dress. They're not comfortable with photos, so didn't enter the contest and you'll have to take my word for this, but it was outstanding. I thought about going to the G1 Show Discussion panel, but didn't get round to it in time. Never mind: simply chatting to other pony people was good enough.

Looking down on just a few of the ~50 stalls
My Little Karaoke is always a highlight of UK PonyCon for me, so it was off there next. I went out on a limb and chose Phileo's rather unjustly forgotten "The Way She Flies" and... well, let's just say there's a reason I'm not a professional rock singer. I wasn't awful, but MLK's volume was set so low I could barely hear it and so I got out of sync with the beat at times. I'm glad I gave it a go, but I don't think I'll be choosing that song at future cons. After an hour or so enjoying others' singing, I left and headed for the cinema room. You'll have to wait to find out why...

Next time: Tears of Joy, Tears of Laughter

Friday, 19 October 2018

Con crud strikes

Hardly news. It comes to us all (well, most of us) and it's come to me. As such, I'm not posting anything except this today. I hope to have the next part of my UK PonyCon retrospective up tomorrow, and then I'll see how I feel. As for my S8 finale review, I've decided it will go up this coming Monday. That gives me a few days to recover and also fits in with my usual day for posting such things.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

UK PonyCon 2018, Friday: Muffins with Muffins

A question I would ask myself repeatedly
Bright and sunlit were the skies as I ventured forth from home and—no, actually they weren't. It was raining. This would become something of a running theme. Still, I was off to UK PonyCon, and for that I can put up with some damp even when carrying two heavyish bags. (Because I am useless at travelling light.) I was going by train as usual, and the trip was pretty uneventful, which suited me. I managed to get in a quick one-finger "Babs Seed" on the New Street station piano, and ate the compulsory Big Mac, but that was about the height of the excitement.

More fun was that, from Birmingham onwards, I had company in the shape of CuldeeFell, who thinks that Fluttershy is best pony and occasionally comes to the Worcester meets, both unerring signs of quality. (CrossCountry also provided us with a train with room to sit down for a change...) We spent the time having a sometimes quite in-depth chat about MLP's past, present and future; written down here in black and white it seems sad that we felt it might be for the best if G4 did end next year, but it didn't feel that way on the train.
The truly stunning view from my hotel room
We arrived in Nottingham just before 3pm and set off for our respective hotels, though I stayed a few moments to give a quick rendition of "Winter Wrap Up" on that station's piano. It was a very windy day, but thankfully not (quite) raining, so lugging my bags for ten minutes wasn't too much of a trial. Check-in was quick and painless, as it usually is with Travelodge, and I was allotted a corner room on the third floor. As a result, it was noticeably larger than the chain's usual standard, which was nice.

I'd been wearing my UK PonyCon 2017 shirt on the way, but I now changed into my Derpy shirt for something I'd really wanted to do since I discovered it would be possible: I walked a short way to the 200 Degrees coffee shop in Flying Horse Walk (named after a former pub). It was really crowded, but I just about found a place to perch and had a cappuccino and a very nice lemon curd muffin. So there I was, wearing a Derpy shirt, eating a muffin, in Flying Horse Walk. There must be worse starts to pony conventions!

Forbidden Planet's idea of going all-out for the convention market
After nipping into Poundland to get some mints for my annoying cough, I went back to the hotel before going to the Roebuck, a Wetherspoon pub about three minutes from where I was staying and therefore very convenient, to meet up with some friends and (gasp!) talk about ponies. I won't try to name-check everyone here as I'm bound to miss someone out, but during the five hours or so I was there I think I talked to about ten other people. I ate fish and chips and drank the weekend's first cider, followed by a very chocolatey brownie with ice cream.

I walked back to the hotel at a bit after 11pm, and though quite lively (there'd been an away England football match) it wasn't too bad, at least on my side of Nottingham. I forced myself to spend a few minutes getting stuff ready for the morrow, such as my "Friendship Squad" tote bag (this design, but pink and plasticised). By this time I was knackered. And so to bed and dreams of pony conventions, as Samuel Pepys would doubtless have written had he been a brony. And 350 years younger.

A terrible mix-up meant the Phil ended up in the concert hall next door