With Great Power

“I’ve been quoted as saying that ‘the cruellest thing you can do to an artist is tell them their work is perfect when it isn’t.’ It’s a policy that has gotten me thrown out of a lot of finger painting classes.” – Yahtzee Croshaw, Zero Punctuation; Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

One of the biggest annoyances of being a writer who delves primarily in fanfiction, is that people have a tendency to blow smoke up my ass.

‘Oh, this story is so fantastic, I can’t wait to see what happens!’ They say in reference to my most boring work.

But on the flip side, when people have legitimate criticisms, it’s too easy to dismiss them and say they don’t get it. Or even worse, take personal offence.

One must remember that they are not their work. If someone criticizes your work, they’re not criticizing you, only what you created. But people so easily forget that. I, myself, only noticed recently that the early chapters of My Little Destiny were too over-padded. A lot of things could’ve been glossed over, compressed, or cut completely; but when people told me this, I got annoyed. Oh these peasants, not understanding the artistic narrative I’m trying to develop. Ba-ha-ha…

But they were right, and I should’ve been grateful, but I wasn’t; instead, I was dickish, and suggested they wanted Michael Bay to write the story. But this was my story, my baby, and I worked so hard on it! And that’s the problem: In my mind, I couldn’t separate myself from my work.

So it should come as no surprise that so many people treat artists like Precious Moments figurines; delicately and carefully out of fear they’ll break them, or by smashing them on the floor out of sheer disgust.

But the truth is, you shouldn’t hide the truth from them. If someone’s work is terrible, they deserve to know, because it’s the only way they can get better. You should try to nitpick, and search for errors and problems. And you should never, ever, use the word ‘perfect.’

Yes, I’m talking to you, Spike! You little suck up! For you see, it’s time, once again, to talk about My Little Pony. Continue reading

Trading Ponies

Trade is the bedrock upon which all civilization is built. It is essentially the practice of exchanging goods and services one has, for goods and services one needs.

This is necessary because no one is an expert at everything. Generally, people are really good at one or two things, moderately good at a few other things, and crap at everything else. So, without trade those who were good at growing corn, wouldn’t have much to eat other than corn, and their farming equipment would likely be made of leaves and twigs, unless they just happen to be good at smithing as well.

Oh, sure, they could also start farming cows for their meat, but they’d probably be terrible at it. Half the livestock would die, and the other half would want to. So instead, the corn farmer would just go to the local butcher, who might be getting sick of eating beef every single day, and exchange a bushel of corn for a nice, juicy steak.

These days we use money, but in principle it’s the same thing. We exchange what we have for currency, which we then exchange for what we need. Currency makes the whole process simpler and easier. Buying stuff doesn’t have to happen at the same time as selling stuff, and the value of an object can be fine-tuned to a much more precise degree.

Of course, there was a time when currency had a lot of value because it was something with a lot of value: gold! We used gold and silver as currency because these precious medals had an inherent value to us, primarily because of their rarity and the fact that you couldn’t just make more of it. Eventually, we started using paper that was backed by gold. Banknotes that represented a set amount of gold stored at a particular bank. This eventually evolved into something called ‘fiat money,’ which only has value because the government says it does. And this has worked pretty darn well for us over the past four decades. We’ve all been using fiat money without issue.

Well… most of us have. Apologies to all those living in Zimbabwe but I wouldn’t have blamed those troubles on your currency, but on your shit President.

Of course, this is something most people already know; or at least, those who’ve taken macroeconomics know. But the point is, currency works. And without it, we wouldn’t have a society.

Which is why I’m a bit perplexed at a recent episode of My Little Pony. It’s the episode where everypony abandons the Equestrian Bit (EQB), and goes back to a traditional bartering system of economics.

What is the nation coming to? Continue reading

Evolving Integrity

I’m certain I’m not alone when I say, I want to be a better person. But that’s not easy. There are certain faults I have, that I know I have, that I just can’t seem to get past. One being a lack of self-motivation to write these reviews.

But how do you know what is a fault, and what is a virtue? My favourite example of this being: ‘faith.’ A lot of people think ‘faith’ is a virtue, and I could not disagree more. To believe in something when there’s no evidence for it, and even when there’s evidence to contradict it, is in no way a good thing. In fact, it might even be a sign of insanity.

To give you an example, let’s say a friend of yours swears that he did not brutally murder his girlfriend with a chef’s knife. He’s your friend, you trust him, and so you believe him. I can understand that. Now, lets say he swears this as he’s holding a chef’s knife, dripping with fresh blood, and standing over his girlfriend’s mangled corpse. If you still believe him at that stage, you need psychiatric care.

So I guess it’s good in moderation. Trust a friend, sure… until he proves you can’t.

But are there any absolute virtues? Traits that are always good, in all cases?

Tenacity’s a good one; the desire to never give up. It’s what got me through high school, and my first attempt at college. And most of the major advancements our society has gone through was only possible because of people who refused to give up when things got tough. The suffragettes, the civil rights movement, NASA…

But on the other side of the coin, you have those people who are trying to build perpetual motion machines. People who think that if they work hard, and keep at it, they can defy the fundamental laws of the universe. I imagine if they ever do succeed, it’ll just cause a system error and our entire universe would blink out and be replaced by a blue screen with white text on it.

What about honesty? Well, sometimes you have to lie. Take all those people in Nazi Germany who sheltered Jewish families during the holocaust. Honesty there would’ve gotten innocent people killed.

So, these traits are good in moderation. But too much of them can cause insanity, or just being downright evil. But there is one virtue which I think is absolute. One you can never have too much of: Integrity.

Integrity is basically being honest to yourself. Having a solid moral code you live up to, don’t compromise on, and don’t back down from. Of course, being completely immovable on basic issues isn’t good. But that’s not integrity, that’s just being stubborn. Take gay marriage for instance. Let’s say a politician who was against gay marriage suddenly 180s because he met a gay couple who seemed really nice, and were very much in love, and it made him realize that these people have as much a right to get married as the next couple. That displays a profound amount of honesty and integrity. On the flip side, if he changes his mind because a gay advocacy group promised him a million in campaign dollars, that would do the opposite.

So yes, integrity is most certainly a virtue. And such a virtue seemed to be the theme of a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop. Continue reading

Love in a Dumbwaiter

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of romantic plotlines. Mainly because I think avoiding the issue is just ridiculous. On My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, only one main character ever expressed even a modicum of interest in a member of the opposite sex. The other five appear to actively avoid romance for no discernible reason. Well, that is with the possible exceptions of Twilight, who fell in love with a block of wood from a parallel dimension. But she didn’t really express an active interest in Flash Sentry, just a passive one. She just stood back, took a few shy glances, and blushed. And now that I think about it, that kind of characterization is bordering on old-fashioned sexism. Expecting the woman to stand back and wait for love to happen to her. What the hell, writers!?

But nonetheless, with the exception of Rarity’s one romance episode, they seem to actively avoid it. And this is part of the reason I like to presume the other five were spayed at some stage.

But that being said, romance is something that needs to be handled delicately, and not shoehorned in for the sake of fan service. And to me, the prime example of this has to be the TV show, Jonathan Creek. It’s a comedy/mystery series about a magician’s creative consultant who moonlights as an amateur detective solving seemingly impossible cases. Most of which are of the ‘locked-room’ variety. For the first few seasons he worked with his friend, Maddie, who also got him started in this business to begin with. Now, in the first few episodes of this show, there was no indication of any romantic tension between these two. In fact, just the opposite. They appeared more like reluctant colleagues. Then, in the final episode of season one, one character says, ‘oh yeah, they want to bang each other.’ And from that point forward, we get this shoehorned romantic subplot that never goes anywhere since they’re more likely to annoy each other before they can put it in. Typically, this is known as a ‘will they/won’t they’ plot. Except in this case, I wish they didn’t… ever. But they did, and a few episodes later, after she left the series, Jonathan mentions that it was a mistake. And I can’t tell if that was Jonathan Creek (the character) talking, or the series’ writer saying, ‘yeah, that was a bad idea, I don’t know why I did that!’

Then they introduced a new character named Carla, who also had a bit of romantic tension with Jonathan. But if you ask me, in that case, it worked. Primarily because they actually had a bit of chemistry. You could actually believe that they were a couple. Sadly, between her first and second appearances, she ended up dumping Jonathan, and getting married to a professional tool. So that wasn’t actually a ‘will they/won’t they’ plot. It was a ‘they did, and it’s over now, but they still have the hots for each other’ plot. And it actually worked!

I guess what I’m saying is, whether the characters actually ‘hook up’ doesn’t matter. What matters is: Do the characters and actors actually have any real chemistry. Can you believe them when they say they’re in love? And even more importantly, does their relationship develop in a believable way?

In the past, Littlest Pet Shop handled this pretty well… sometimes… For instance, Pepper’s relationship with the Captain worked because we saw their relationship develop. There was a bit of old ‘love at first sight’ bollocks, but as the episode progressed, they started to talk, and flirt, and by the end, we can believably presume several little hybrid pups are in their future.

Then there was the time Zoe fell for a mime. She had nothing to base it on, and eventually realized that, so left him in the dust. Again, believable; and because of that, one of the better romance plot threads on this show.

It’s certainly gold in contrast to the time Blythe crashed into some skateboarding ponce and instantly found herself smitten before he got a chance to say anything.

Yes, Josh Sharp. A block of wood with no personality. But perhaps, as time went on, this relationship could develop into one that makes a bit of sense. We could get either some indication that Blythe’s feelings are based on something more substantial; or we could see Blythe come to her senses, and decide to abandon this silly and superficial crush.

But I don’t think either is going to happen. Especially since Josh’s most recent appearance only confirmed everything I just said. He just stands around, says ‘hi,’ as Blythe gushes.

They can’t even try to develop these characters? Continue reading

Malicious in Vogue

One of the many things that differentiates Littlest Pet Shop from My Little Pony, is the setting.

One may think that’s a superficial distinction, but it’s not. The world of Equestria is a land of magic, unicorns, and fairy tale castles; where everyone is nice to each other, and nothing ever goes wrong.

In contrast, Littlest Pet Shop takes place in (for the most part) the real world. Downtown City is located on a contemporary Earth, with modern digital technology and no magic (for the most part). It’s also a world where, to put it bluntly, shit happens. Things aren’t perfect, and bad things do happen. Yes, it never happens on-screen, because this is a saccharine kids show. But given the fact that this is ersatz-New York, I get the feeling that something very terrible did happen in that town about thirteen years ago.

Basically, the difference in setting gives us a difference in tone. Even if it’s just an implied tone. And this is even portrayed on-screen in the attitudes of some of the characters.

In Equestria, everyone is nice. In the real world, most people are dicks; And this has been portrayed on Littlest Pet Shop quite extensively. There’ve been con-artists, violent bullies, thieves, complete tools, plagiarizers, and serpentile delinquents on this show. Then there’s the recurring jackass we have in the form of the Biskit Twins, who constantly make life miserable for our hero. And while Equestria does have it’s share of bad apples, I can name them on one hand. They’re not really a large cohort.

And because of all this, I believe Littlest Pet Shop has cemented it’s role as the show where people suck. And I’m not sure if this is a good thing. Oh sure, it’s more realistic, and certainly kids need to learn that not everything is sunshine and rainbows; but I don’t think it’s a good idea to make children completely jaded and cynical either. Which could probably happen because of this. Especially with regards to a recent episode, where the designated prick didn’t appear to be a prick… at first. Continue reading

An Alien Confusion

I would love to meet an alien. Who wouldn’t?

To start, I think it would be nice to finally know that we’re not alone in the universe; It’d make existence seem less lonely. We’d be exposed to a brand new culture, one we couldn’t have even fathomed before, and we’d gain new ideas about biology and evolution. We’d have new motivation to explore the stars ourselves, and they could answer the mysteries of the universe we still haven’t solved. Like how to travel faster than light, what dark matter is, and why American Idol is still on the air.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be excited to meet an alien. Well, racists probably wouldn’t be too happy. They have a problem with members of the same species who just happen to have higher melanin content. Imagine how they would react to a six-armed tentacle beast, even if it just wanted to be your friend and help you cure cancer.

But for the most part, I think we’d be happy to meet alien life. Even if we never met; Even if we just knew they existed because they sent us a radio message. I think that alone would change everything, and maybe make us appreciate our own existence even more.

So all that being said, you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I say, if you think you’ve been abducted by aliens, you’re wrong.

Believe me, I wish you weren’t! Because that would prove aliens existed. But if you have no evidence, your claim has no weight. So here’s what I suggest: Next time you get taken to the flying saucer, when the aliens are looking the other way, reach over and grab something off the desk. Anything! Because no matter what it is, it’ll be a miracle of technology to us on Earth.

The same goes with sightings of flying saucers, and the various alien conspiracies that have cropped up over the years. Show me the proof, and I’ll believe you. Primarily because I want to believe you. But if you can’t prove it, I won’t.

I’m not saying you’re lying. But it’s pretty easy to confuse one thing for another. To see something in the sky you don’t immediately recognize, and assume it’s something unusual. But that doesn’t mean it is.

And that’s an important thing to remember: Just because something seems paranormal, doesn’t mean it is. And that message was sent quite clearly during a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop… which I totally saw coming. Continue reading

Coming Up Raccoons

Back in April, approximately two months ago, Littlest Pet Shop had its second season finale.

It wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t a great one either. Sort of middle-ground sludge, just waiting for something to happen. All it seemed to do was set up future plot points as Blythe becomes a well-known pet-fashion designer. And to end a season on that seems like they’re just egging us on. Hey, look at all the great storylines we have planned! And you’ll have to wait ’til next season to see them!

A lot of shows do this, end seasons on cliffhangers, and it always annoys me. I guess they really want us to tune in for next season, but it’s unnecessary. I was already on board. All this does is make me irritated, and anxious, during the break. And it gets even worse if the show is cancelled on a season finale cliffhanger.

However, in the case of Littlest Pet Shop, we don’t have to wait so long for the continuation to this story; because a mere seven weeks later, the next season premiered.

Fuckers just aren’t wasting any time are they? Continue reading

The Test of a Lifetime

I’ll tell you one thing: I love being a student.

I constantly learn new things, I’m staying relatively productive, I get out of the house, and I have a set schedule that I can’t blow off.

Now, that may not seem like a fun time, but it’s way better than being unemployed while having nothing to do.

Plus, I’m earning a diploma, to begin a lucrative career in a field I love. Assuming I can actually find a job this time.

But if there’s one thing that annoys the hell out of me: it’s tests. I don’t mind taking tests, per say. I’m just annoyed at how they’re done, and what people think of them.

There’s a common problem in western education known as ‘teaching to the test.’ We’ve all heard of this. Where the entire education system isn’t designed for the purposes of teaching students material they’re interested in, in a fun and practical way. It’s all about getting them to pass tests. In fact, you may have entire lessons devoted to teaching students all about test-taking strategies, as if it’s a goddamn video game!

The test should fit the material, the material should not fit the test. Now, to a certain extent, I do believe in a consistent and universal curriculum. In most of the US, for instance, the public school curriculums are designed at a local level. And this basically means that the depth, breadth, and by extension quality of a child’s education may vary from town to town. And don’t even get me started on the backward and ignorant rednecks trying to bring religion into biology classrooms. Just thinking about that makes me cry. I weep for those children’s futures.

But if you have a province-wide curriculum, like we do in Ontario, how do you ensure it’s being followed? Well, primarily, by trusting the teachers and administrators. And not by giving them standardized tests that examine whether or not a student can read. Let’s be honest, if someone has made it to grade 10, I’m pretty sure they’re literate. Someone would’ve spotted it otherwise.

Ideally, education should prepare a student for the adult world. It should give them a set of skills that’ll help them be informed citizens, discerning consumers, responsible financial managers, and skilled workers. In what circumstance does knowing how to fill out a damn Scantron form help in any area? Are there professional test-takers out there?

Not that tests shouldn’t be done. I think it’s important to check whether or not someone knows what they should know. But the tests should be relevant to the material. In IT, we have this down. Most of my exams this year have been practical exams, where all we have to do is design a program, or website, just like any other assignment we’ve had, only with a 2 hour time limit, and we’re not allowed to talk to anyone. And yes, we were allowed to look at our old assignments, and Google, because that’s exactly what we’d have access to in the workplace as well. Memorizing every possible function and command isn’t really necessary, so why should we have to do it?

But then there’s written theory tests, where you have to work entirely off memory. And to a certain extent, one should have basic conversational knowledge, and be able to discuss the various concepts in a casual setting, and you can’t just pull out a reference book in the middle of a conversation. But when exactly are the names of every single SQL data type going to be necessary to bring up in conversation.

I just don’t think it’s necessary. Just like knowing the history of an organization before joining that organization. It’s not necessary, nor should it be mandatory.

Which brings me to the realm of Equestria, where it is mandatory for Rainbow Dash to memorize the history of the Wonderbolts to join the Wonderbolts Reserve, which is now a thing! Continue reading