Every New Beginning: “Twilight’s Kingdom” review

Ah, Royalty. In this day and age, it’s vestigial. A remnant of ancient society that we just haven’t bothered to get rid of. The only cases where a society has rid themselves of their monarch and established a republic are cases where their monarch was an asshole. Even going back to possibly the earliest republic: Rome.

Before the Roman Republic was established, their last king, King Superbus (yes, that’s his real name), was an arrogant and tyrannical prat. Of course they overthrew him!

The United States ousted the British Government because of taxes and other things, France overthrew their king mainly because of the wealth gap, Germany got rid of the Kaiser because he was a twat who caused World War I, and India dropped King George VI because… well because Ghandi didn’t like him, apparently.

But as long as one doesn’t make too many waves, or piss off the people, they should be able to maintain their rule indefinitely, even if the vast majority of people don’t really care for them. Why? Because it’s just not worth getting rid of them. There really is no point, because even if only a small minority of people support them, their non-supporters just wouldn’t care enough to change things. Everything’s fine! Why fix what isn’t broken?

In Canada, our monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, the same as it is in the UK. And her only job, really, is making sure every nation under her rule has a government… that’s it. She doesn’t have to make any decisions, do any real work; just greet dignitaries, make the occasional speech, and sign every document the parliament puts on her desk. She doesn’t even have to read, she just has to sign!

It must get boring. I know if I had a boring job where I did the exact same thing day after day, no choices, no judgement, no challenges before me, I’d slowly lose my damn mind! Which I guess would explain Prince Philip, wouldn’t it? If only he had a hobby, maybe he’d stop putting his foot in it. I assume that’s how Her Majesty stays sane, some secret hobby no one knows about, like writing erotic fiction under a pseudonym. Maybe she’s the real author of Fifty Shades of Grey! Wouldn’t that be great!?

If life is boring, it’s not worth living. You gotta keep busy, you gotta stay sane. Royalty that does nothing but sit around and wave has no real purpose, and that’s all we have in modern times, unless you count Saudi Arabia. Which I wouldn’t, because I did say ‘modern’ there.

However, in Equestria, Royalty has power. None of them are mere figureheads, overlooking their society while perpetually disconnected from it. They all have a role to play. Well, all except the newest member of the royals: Twilight Sparkle.

And this leads us into the fourth season finale of My Little Pony. Where Twilight finally gets a job. What took her so long? Continue reading

Because You’re Worthless: “Equestria Games” review

A little over two weeks ago, Robin Williams killed himself.

Oh, what a bright and cheery way to open this piece.

But he did! It happened, and I honestly can’t ever remember being this broken up over a celebrity’s death. I mean, maybe Michael Jackson; but then I wasn’t sad, I was just surprised. But with Robin Williams, I was seriously broken up over it. And it didn’t take me long to realize why: because he killed himself.

When someone dies of natural causes, or due to some accident or drug overdose, you know you can’t really blame anyone. I mean, I could get angry at Heath Ledger for ruining The Dark Knight Rises by dying of a drug overdose, and I did. But I shouldn’t have because it wasn’t really his fault, it was an accident, and I’m sure he didn’t want to die. A statistical fluke, we’ll call it.

But Williams deliberately ended his own life. He chose to kill himself. So the rest of us don’t just have a sense of loss, but betrayal, and are left to only ask ‘why?’ Why did he chose to leave us? Why did he have to die before making Mrs. Doubtfire 2!? I’m sure the answers were in the note he left his family, which the rest of us will probably never see. And fair enough, we don’t have an explicit right to. But regardless, it was a decision he made. And the rest of us can only wonder why. And we may never, ever, get an answer.

So is that the reason it hit me so hard? I could keep saying that. I could say the gnawing existential questions are what tore me apart. But that would be a lie. A lie used to cover another lie that I’ve told everyone who’s ever asked, including myself. Because the truth I came to shortly after he died was: I know exactly how he felt. You see, in the past, I’ve thought of killing myself. And this is the first time I’ve ever told anyone.

Obviously I never went through it, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve never even come close; I’ve never made a single action in that direction. It’s just… there were certain dark moments where I thought about it, but quickly decided against it. Which is why I was in denial about it. Oh, it was only for a few seconds, it doesn’t count! But looking back, it probably did. I’ll probably need to talk to someone about this, like a professional councillor, or a psychologist. Someone who would know exactly how to handle this.

I know I won’t talk to a friend who’ll probably have absolutely no experience with this kind of thing. Because if someone is depressed, and on the verge of suicide, a friend may be able to make the commitment and spend the night so they can physically stop the person from taking their own life. And yeah, sure, that’ll work, but it may only be a short-term solution. These people have serious issues they need to deal with, and if a friend tries to fix them, they might just make it worse! They may say things like: “Oh, life’s worth living!” and, “You have friends and family who love you!” and stuff… And that won’t help… at all. And you may be wondering: ‘Why!? Why won’t it help!?’ Well, because they won’t believe you!

The thing is, if someone’s that deep in a pit of depression, it’ll take more than meaningless platitudes to pull them out. “But they’re not meaningless!” you might say. But you’re wrong, they are. Just because you say something, doesn’t make it true, and someone suffering from depression is going to gravitate to the negative, and ignore the positive. They simply won’t believe you! And they may even think your pointless platitudes are condescending and insulting.

The truth is, if you feel inadequate and useless, someone else’s words aren’t going to pull you out of it. Even your own words will fail to pull you out, especially if you don’t believe them. You’re going to have to feel better, and want to feel better, by more than just simple words.

And with all this talk about suicide and depression, we come to the penultimate episode from the latest season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Where Spike becomes clinically depressed during the Equestria Games. And I know exactly how he feels, I hate sports too. Continue reading

With Great Power: “Inspiration Manifestation” review

“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 Ya!” review

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

The Test of a Lifetime: “Testing Testing 1, 2, 3” review

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

Too Good To Be True: “Leap of Faith” review

“‘Herbal medicine’s been around for thousands of years!’ Indeed it has, and then we tested it all, and the stuff that worked became ‘medicine.'” – Dara Ó Briain, Dara Ó Briain Talks Funny – Live in London

The thing about skepticism is that it can sometimes be misinterpreted.

The goal of skepticism is to look at the world through a scientific lens, because science is the best method we have of finding the truth. And through this lens, it becomes quite obvious that things like ghosts, astrology, alternative medicine, and homeopathy, are all bunk.

It’s not simply because none of them fit in the standard scientific model of the universe that has been developed and fine-tuned over the past several thousand years. It’s because there is no evidence to support any of it! There have been trials on various alternative treatments, and none of them have been proven to be better than nothing.

So why do some people buy into it? Well, part of it could be due to something called ‘confirmation bias.’ If you believe in a treatment that does nothing, but get better on your own shortly after taking it, you credit the treatment rather than your own immune system. And when it doesn’t work, you never really notice, or remember.

Basically, we ignore the misses, and we count and exaggerate the hits. Astrology tends to work the same way.

And add to that, a bizarre phenomenon known as the placebo effect. Basically, if you think you’re taking something that’s supposed to treat some ailment, the very act of treatment can make you feel better, and make you think you’re getting better, even if the treatment is nothing more than a sugar pill. Combine this with confirmation bias, you end up crediting a glass of water for something that didn’t really happen.

Now what causes the placebo effect? I don’t know. I honestly wish I did. For the most part, it can be explained as a simple psychological trick. But this thing is way more powerful than that. But I don’t really want to get into the details.

The point I’m trying to get at is this: Just because you think it works, doesn’t mean it works. You have to test it. You have to run a proper analysis, and count not only when it does work, but when it doesn’t work. And you have to check to see if it really is nothing more than a trick of the mind.

‘But what’s the harm?’ you may ask. ‘What’s the harm in letting people believe that a bay leaf can cure the common cold?’ Well, do you mean aside from the money spent on it? They don’t give this stuff away for free! And for people to take money from desperate and sick people, and give them literally nothing? As Randall Munroe once said, “Telling someone who trusts you that you’re giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying–it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong.”

But that aside. Often times, these salesmen advise their customers to forgo real medical treatments that could actually help them, because they claim it would interfere with their sugar-water. And when it comes to serious, treatable illnesses, people have actually died because of this. They died, because they were told not to take a life-saving treatment, and instead took ginkgo biloba or something.

I could elaborate quite a bit more on this, but I think I made my point. Is it any wonder why people such as myself try to convince others to give up these pointless endeavours? We’re not trying to be mean or ‘ruin your mojo’ or something, we’re trying to help! I just wish more people understood this.

Well, perhaps they finally will, as a recent episode of My Little Pony covered this very same topic. And if any show can spread an idea to the masses, it’s My Little Pony! Continue reading

It’s Not… Strictly Speaking, Legal: “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils” review

Last season, on My Little Pony, Scootaloo got her first character-development episode… and ended up getting overshadowed by Princess Luna.

At least, in my mind she did. The revelation of Luna’s dream sharing powers, just seemed way more intriguing than Scootaloo’s fear of ghost stories.

Sadly, unlike some films that explored this exact same concept, the episode didn’t really spend much time on it. I mean sure, they didn’t need to. But then, why even include it? Why include Luna’s dream-sharing powers if you’re going to do so little with them?

This was a concept in desperate need of expansion. I’m not saying we needed to see Luna perform extraction, or have anti-gravity fight scenes in a spinning hallway. But something more than a single minute-and-a-half scene would’ve been nice.

Personally, I would’ve liked to see the whole episode take full advantage of this concept. Instead, they had a different episode take full advantage of this concept. This time starring the amazingly adorable, Sweetie Belle!

Awww, so adorable! It’s like they weaponized cuteness. Continue reading

It’s Pinkie and the Goth!: “Maud Pie” review

Hey, remember about a month ago, when I reviewed Pinkie Pie’s arc-related episode, Pinkie Pride? Remember when I noticed that the photo of Pinkie’s family didn’t match up with the depiction of Pinkie’s family in season one? And remember when I made the joke about the extra family member being a bitter teenager who cuts herself? Turns out I was actually onto something! Because today, we’re actually going to meet her!

This is Maud, Pinkie’s elder sister! And she’s coming to Ponyville! And she’s awesome! Continue reading