Saturday, 30 June 2018

Just five weeks to go! (Well, probably)

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

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

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

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

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

Read it Later story count: 327 (nc)

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

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

Monday, 25 June 2018

Twitter, escapism, mental health and ponies

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Season 8A – the UK of Equestria rankings

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

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

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

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

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

12. "Non-Compete Clause" (12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 22 June 2018

Text Review Roundup: "The Mean 6"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Episode review: S8E13: "The Mean 6"

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

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 207: It does mean changing the bulb

Title explanation: Red Dwarf line

Read it Later story count: 327 (-4)

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

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

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

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

UK PonyCon tickets selling out fast!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Brief audio thoughts on S8A, with text transcript here

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

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Marks for Effort"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 15 June 2018

UK PonyCon news: Distance Supporter Membership and tram ticket offer

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

1) Distance Supporter Membership

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

2) Discounted tram travel

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

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Episode review: S8E12: "Marks for Effort"

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

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 206: The Piper o' Dundee

Title explanation: Scottish folk song

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

Read it Later story count: 331 (+1)

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

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

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

What? "Kindness"

Who? 4EverfreeBrony

Which? Cover

When? March 2018

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

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 205: Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard

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

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

Read it Later story count: 330 (-3)

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

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

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