Jan
28th
2017

Source: Season 5, Episode 26.

I was just thinking about the season five finale.  Each alternate timeline showed us what would happen if a different villain hadn't been defeated.  In each one, there was some sort of major resistance.  During the fight against Sombra, Equestria essentially turned into WWII Britain, complete with giant battles, railroads to safety, and a society that has pointed every ounce of its industrial weight toward the war effort.  During the fight against the changelings, ponies took to the hills, and became merciless guerilla warriors - even Fluttershy.

Nightmare Moon, however, while clearly a tyrant, continued to command the loyalty of her subjects.  It's not a pleasant timeline.  Based on the fear, and exhaustion we see in those around her, one gets the impression that a single day of serving Nightmare Moon is like an entire chapter of The Devil Wears Prada.   Still, this segment stands out because there was no resistance movement (that we saw), and because main characters serve the villain.

Personally, I find it difficult to extract easy answers from the situation, since I think that I, personally, would fare very well in a Lunarchy.  If my job were to follow Nightmare Moon around and tell her how beautiful the night sky is, I would consider it a dream come true.  Especially if this were a world where I didn't know that there was such a thing as good Princess Luna.

However, my own admittedly ridiculous feelings aside, the episode itself raises questions about monarchism in Equestria.  Is princess worship a more deeply-ingrained value than friendship, (at least in a world before the Elements are rediscovered)?  Do ponies accept tyranny more readily from leaders that they perceive to be "of their tribe," than they would from foreign invaders with similar ambitions?  I think a lot of us do that very thing, so long as the societal infrastructure that we are accustomed to remains familiar.

I think the most important thing that we can take away from this segment is a lesson on the nature of ambition.  The two main characters that we see serving Nightmare Moon most directly are Rainbow Dash, and Rarity - easily the most ambitious ponies in the Mane Six.  Decorating for a princess – even an evil one – is a prestigious career move for Rarity; and Rainbow Dash has always endeavored to rise through the ranks - to become a prominent Wonderbolt - to prove herself.

In seeing Rainbow Dash serve Nightmare Moon with such ferocity, and Rarity serve her so tirelessly, there is an entire backstory – a whole elaborate lesson, right there in just a few short minutes.  What we are seeing is their virtues – parts of their very souls  – being twisted, and used against them.  Raritiy's generosity, and willingness to give of herself creatively - it ends up getting abused, until she is absolutely exhausted.  Rainbow is even worse.  Her loyalty, when misdirected, turns her into a savage attack dog.

There's so much to think about in what we saw of Nightmare Moon's Equestria  - who we are as individuals, what we have the capacity to become if we aren't careful, how troubled times can sculpt us.  I think the problem with a situation like this, is that nopony can prepare for it.  In real life, everyone has very specific ideas about what they would have done had they lived through INSERT HISTORICAL PERIOD HERE.  The fact of the matter is that none of us really know.

The paths before us are not straight lines.  The best that any of us can do is to follow our own hearts, and be sharply aware of the fact that they can be used against us.  Our ambitions can lead us to dark places.  Our virtues can betray us, if they are not guided by principle.

-Sprocket

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Jan
1st
2017

As 2016 winds to an end, I want to do something different.  Rather than reflect upon the show directly, I want to celebrate a very minor detail in pony apocrypha.  Last year, Hasbro released an album, "It's a Pony Kind of Christmas."  The songs on it have a wide range.  Some are quite beautifully scored, and some are tender, but for the most part, the appeal of the album is its whimsical nature – and unapologetic corniness.

One track on it, however, stands out above the others.  The Apple Family's version of Auld Lang Syne.  Like all the songs on the album, it's a classic tune with altered lyrics.  This version is about family.  Nostalgia. Tradition.  Solid subject matter for Applejack, for obvious reasons.  However, whoever put this song together snuck something else in there.  Something deeper.  "Days Gone By" is not just a generic song about family.  It captures something extremely specific.   It is all  about paying tribute to family members who aren't with us.

Have a look at the opening lines:

"When family cannot be here

Havin' journeyed far and wide

We sing a song to honor them

To remember days gone by."

The song doesn't say so directly, of course, but it really feels - to me at least – like Applejack is singing about her dead parents.  The specific words that were chosen are very reminiscent of the way one talks about one's ancestors, or the recently departed.  You don't "sing a song to honor" your cousin who couldn't make it to a New Year's eve party, no matter how much you love them.  That's how you celebrate those no longer with us.

The entire song lends itself to duel interpretation.  Even the lyrics put in there to be reassuring (that the song is about something other than honoring the dead) – come off as merely metaphorical.  The departed are not there because they are "journeying," or in later verses, "across seas far and wide."   These lyrics almost paint a picture of death as a sort of new beginning.  After all, the moral of the song is that those whom we love are still with us in spirit, and that the way to honor them is to tell stories of days gone by.

If you haven't heard the album, I would strongly recommend, at the very least, to give this song a listen.  Why?  Because 2016 sucked.

It was a year of tremendous loss – not just of the countless beloved celebrities - people who made remarkable contributions to the world – but on and intimate level too.  A lot of us lost loved ones.  Family members.  Pets.  You'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn't, in some way, feel like this entire year is cursed.  It's even been a running gag all over the Internet that, this New Year's, rather than celebrating the birth of 2017, we will all be celebrating the death of 2016.

As cute as that sounds, I think we have an opportunity to make more of it than that.  Let's take this opportunity to honor those we have lost in 2016 - to celebrate their lives, and the many ways, however small, that our own lives were changed because of their contributions.  Let's celebrate that we are still here.

Even as we face what is sure to be a tumultuous and uncertain future, let us look to those who made a difference for us in our pasts, and with those memories, plant a seed of responsibility - a dedication to make a difference for others, and to live out the legacies of those we have lost.  I'm not talking about lame resolutions we all break two weeks into December.  I'm talking about a way of looking at the world - a way of looking at our heroes, and using them as a source of inspiration.

Few of us get memes made about us when we pass, nor are we talked about on television, but we can leave our own legacies behind through the people whose lives we touch - through lives well lead.  And while we're still here, let's look back at those who paved the way for us in our own lives, and raise our cider mugs high.

-Sprocket

SONG: DAYS GONE BY

"Our paths will cross again one day

In time to reunite

For family is always near

Even when the seas are wide

So take your cup and raise it high

Just as surely I'll do mine

And make a toast for family

And the tales of days gone by."

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Dec
22nd
2016

Source: A Hearth's Warming Tail

One thing that has always impressed me about My Little Pony, is its mythology - not just the origin story of the princesses, (which I am completely obsessed with), but also its references, and its parallels to classic legends.  The show has introduced millions of children to the concepts of manticores, and hydras, and phœnices; it has, in its own way, retold the story of Icarus in Sonic Rainboom; and it's crafted mythos of its very own.

Now personally, I have been having trouble getting into the spirit of the holiday season lately.  The weather hasn't felt l like December; I have been getting sick on and off; and it's just been a stressful time all around.   Last night, I decided to re-watch a Hearth's Warming Tail.

It helped. It helped a lot.

When I watched the episode, it really got me thinking about the holidays, about our own folklore, and about Hearth's Warming in general as a concept.  December holidays, at their core, tend to be about light.  The sun, naturally, is winding down to its shortest days; we all get our first taste of the harsh winter to come; and in the middle of all that, just as the longest nights of the year hit, the holidays come along and give us something to look forward to – a bit of warmth.  Brightness.

What sets these holidays apart from other occasions throughout the year, is that there is an air of danger about them.  They not only celebrate light, but a specific idea - a light that is perpetually under attack.  From the various European celebrations of the death and rebirth of the Sun King, to Hanukkah's celebration of the miraculous eight days of lamp light that should never have been, to the Nativity story, and the uphill battle surrounding the circumstances of Jesus' birth - that danger is always there.  Even modern pop secular mythology emphasizes Christmas as a holiday that needs to be saved from some external threat, (be it a Grinch, a monster, or a claymation skeleton who just wanted to try something new).

The thing that stuck out to me when I rewatched A Hearth's Warming Tail was how it captured the fact that Hearth's Warming, too, was fundamentally in danger.  I have heard a few people criticize the episode for reusing the old Scrooge trope, (which has admittedly been done 1000 times).  However, what caught my attention was not the parallels to the original story, but the differences.  The past conveys a moment in time when Snowfall Frost hardened her heart to the holiday, just like the book; the present depicts an overly jubilant ghost, and a holiday party full of folks carrying on without her, just like in the book; but the future is really quite different.  There is no hoof that points at Snowfall Frost's grave. The future's ghost points to a wasteland of ice and snow – a world completely and totally destroyed.  It's a reality where that miraculous light - that brightness and warmth we look forward to in our December holidays – never triumphs over the darkness that attacks it.  Furthermore, the messenger is Princess Luna – one who, as we all know, has a history soaked in the conflict between day and night.

To me, this was the moment that solidified the episode – that further legitimized Hearth's Warming, and made it feel like a real holiday with rich traditions behind it, (even if the trope itself has been done before).  Whether consciously, or unconsciously, the show's creative staff tapped into something deep here - something powerful.

Yet, the message itself is still intimate, and simple.  One of the things that My Little Pony does best is infuse little things – basic virtues – with magic power, and great cosmic significance.  As Twilight suggests to Starlight, and as Pinkie Ghost flat out sings to Snowfall Frost, the real meaning of the holiday "is to be with your friends."  Your family.

No matter what tradition you celebrate, or what culture – no matter if your feelings toward the season are religious or secular, there's something we all have in common - the fact that the warmth and strength that our friends and family give to us is what gets us through dark times.

Wow.  They really, really, really should have aired this episode as a holiday special in December.

-Sprocket

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Nov
29th
2016

To all of you following Fallout: Equestria - Hooves of Fate, I have a brief announcement.  I am currently in the process of writing a short story that will be released here on FimFic fairly soon once I'm done ironing out all of the kinks.  It's a side story that follows one of Rose Petal's other visions.  It fits into the Fo:E universe, but doesn't have anything to do with the grand story arcs central to Hooves of Fate.

The vision itself will not have an established point in Rose's timeline, since when she actually has this dream isn't important at all.  

Why bother announcing this?  Well, because it's been a while since I've uploaded a chapter, and last time, I left you all with a pretty big cliffhanger.  (Sorry!)   When the new story comes out, I don't want anypony to think that I've put Hooves of Fate aside, or that this vignette somehow stole time away that could have been spent finishing Chapter 26.  It didn't.  Finding time to edit, and finding time to write are two entirely different things that don't really conflict with each other.

Also, I'm just plain excited about the story, and I want to share that excitement with all of you, who've invested so much time and energy into Rose Petal, just like I have.  

It's to be called Fallout: Equestria - HOOVES OF FATE : The Coming Storm, and I'm about 3/4 done.  I look forward to releasing it, and I look forward to hearing from you.

-Sprocket

Nov
23rd
2016

The theme of season six was "Explore Equestria," and the show made good on its promise.  It expanded on season five's goal of developing, and expanding exotic locations within the MLP universe.  We got to see the Dragonlands, and Pony Vegas.  We also got to see...wherever the heck the changelings live.

However, the one location that the show still hasn't explored at all is the homeland of one of the oldest races in the show - zebras.  (In my head, I call it "Zimbabneigh").

Well, I've been thinking.

Whenever people post about wanting the show to develop the zebra race more, they always say they want to see "Zecora's village."  A lot of us have some pretty fixed ideas about what the zebras are like, and naturally so.  But what if she doesn't have a village?  What if Zecora is a lone traditionalist living off the grid?

What if the zebras actually have teeming metropolises - a highly technologically advanced, space-faring civilization?  What if the tables were turned, and Twilight Sparkle, sent to Zimbabneigh by the Cutie Map, journeyed there, expecting to find huts, only to find out that she was the one considered primitive?

An episode about that could shatter the Mane Six's (and our) preconceived notions about Zecora's race, expand on the lessons of Bridle Gossip, and maybe even create some awareness.  

I thought about writing more on this subject - even drafted a few versions of this essay that involved long drawn out character analyses, theories about Equestrian anthropology (equology?), parallels to global politics, parallels to race politics, praise and analysis of Bridle Gossip's lessons;  etc., etc., etc.  

However, to be perfectly honest, it all sucked.

It came out totally forced, and what's worse, knowing that the essay wasn't working just drove me to pressure myself to try to force it some more - to get 'er done - to finish at any cost.   But there was literally no way to write a huge chunk of it without getting more political than I'd care to.

No matter what your political leanings are, we all need a place to put that stuff aside for a while, and no matter what I have to write in praise of Bridle Gossip's lesson, its beauty will always be its simplicity.   (You don't need me or anyone else to tell you what you already know).

It's really, really, really, really easy, as a content creator, to get swept up - to get excited about the next big idea - to write about the next unexplored angle, or a new and clever way to articulate things that everypony already instinctively knows.  It's easy to end up pressuring yourself - to get fixated on numbers rather than people.  

Personally, I set a goal of increasing my writing output, and frankly, it got to me - made me anxious - and, ironically made me un-good-er at writing.

Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to put all of that stupid arbitrary stuff aside - those little obsessions that feel so important  - those little goals that grant us self esteem points - and just remember your joy! Reflect on what drew you into this crazy fandom in the first place.  Pony should never, ever, ever feel like work.  The moral of the story is that space zebras are awesome.  

The thought of them makes me smile, and that's all that matters.    

-Sprocket

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Nov
17th
2016

As a rule, I avoid discussing politics here, because that's not the point of this blog.  However, it is necessary at times to respond to tragedy.  In the wake of the election, extremists have been committing celebratory hate crimes, and many LGBTQ youths who were already at risk for suicide, have reported suicidal ideation, and even gone ahead and done the deed.

If you are feeling lost, and suicidal, I implore you to seek help.

Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255

Trans Crisis Hotline: 877-565-8860

LGBTQ + Hotline: 866-488-7386

Int'l: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

It may not seem this way, but there are millions of people in your corner.  It may feel like the end of the world - that hope is a million miles away - but there are people who care - people willing to help.  Shelters.  Hotlines.  Friends.

Please choose life.

-Sprocket

(No political debates on this thread, please).

Nov
6th
2016

Source: Season 5, Episode 26.

When Princess Luna returned to Equestria, she did not re-integrate easily.  Forgiven though she was, she still felt great shame for her deeds - her life as Nightmare Moon.  Worse yet, though she had reunited with Celestia, and had rediscovered sisterly love, Princess Luna found that as time went by, she still developed feelings of resentment and jealousy.  She was still stuck in her older sister's shadow.

For a long, long time following her return, Luna was not seen by the public.  She was hiding, training, growing back to her normal size, and learning to come to grips with all of these conflicting feelings.  Love.  Guilt.  Jealousy.  Insecurity.  Fear.

...Until one day, Princess Celestia approached her with an idea.  It was clear that the feelings that had made Luna transform into Nightmare Moon could never be fully destroyed.  Burying them deep down inside was no solution either; that would only result in torment for Luna, and danger for all of Equestria, (the Tantabus).

So it was agreed that the two sisters would cast a spell together to let Nightmare Moon out for a short time, but still keep her from doing any lasting harm - a controlled explosion of sorts - G-Rated version of The Purge.

They threw all of their magic, and all of their will power into it, and the spell worked.  It worked so well that they figured out a way to keep Equestria safe from Nightmare Moon.

It happens once a year, for exactly one hour.  Princess Celestia and Princess Luna work together, and they let Nightmare Moon gallop free.  The villainess has one hour all to herself, stolen at the expense of the Day.

It may not have destroyed the Tantabus, but it stabilized Princess Luna, and allowed her to return to the public eye.

Tonight is that night. Her night.  Tonight belongs to Nightmare Moon.  Remember to set your clocks back one hour.  If you don't, she may gobble you up.

-Sprocket

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Nov
1st
2016

Halloween is the one night a year when no one notices that I am a unicorn. -Sprocket

Oct
26th
2016

Source: MLP: FIM Pilot.  Airdate: 10/10/2010.


My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is often lauded for its world building, as well it should be.  Equestria is a vast world, full of different races, cultures, locations, and it is populated by hundreds of characters.  These past few seasons in particular have made a mission of developing that world out to its furthest reaches - "exploring Equestria."

However, when I think of episodes that have expanded the universe, the one that tops my list doesn't have anything to do with Griffinstone, or the Dragonlands, or Yak Yakistan.

It's Amending Fences.

The purpose of world building is to create an immersive universe – a place that feels like it would continue to exist beyond the story being told.

Amending Fences, by exploring Twilight Sparkle's actions, and their long-reaching effects on Moondancer, changed the entire tone of the show, and opened up the entire universe.   My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic had frequently written in characters whose sole purpose was to drive a particular story forward, or to serve as plot devices, or as quick comic relief, or even just to fill space.

Background ponies.

Amending Fences, however, went out of its way to show us that everypony has a life outside of their immediate narrative function – that Equestria functions like the real world, where our actions impact others, even when we don't think about it, because it falls outside of our personal narratives.

Now, I live in Manehattan - a notoriously impersonal metropolis.  Everything is so fast-paced here, that it is necessary to ignore the vast majority of the people around me just to get through my day.  It's a place where people walk fast, and move along, furthering their own personal business, and personal responsibilities - leading their own personal narratives.  On the surface, it seems antithetical to the sort of lifestyle that makes Ponyville so pastoral and inspiring - the communal lifestyle - the sense that, even though its citizens are far from perfect, they pull together, and contribute, regardless of whether they are wrapping up winter, or trying to generate enough wing power for a hurricane.

However, I have found that the key to that sense of community is not in location, but in attitude.  We all have people whose paths we cross regularly - sometimes every day - and we don't talk to them – don't acknowledge them – don't treat them as though they are real, simply because they have no place in our direct personal narratives.  When I used to work retail, I noticed how impersonal people tend to be.  More often than not, you are invisible, unless the customer wants something; and when they do need something from you, they often treat you as though you are an NPC in a video game, not a person.  Over time, I found that I always had three or four "favorite customers."  Just to see them walk in the door brightened my day, because I knew that I would get respect and human interaction out of them - that they would inevitably say something to make me laugh, or smile.

So when I run into a cashier at the grocery store who has rung me up several times, or a barista who has made my coffee, I talk to them.  I joke around.  I make an effort.  If you do this too, over the course of time, you find things out about each other.  You start to ask questions like, "Are your kids feeling better?"  And they ask in return, "How's your back?"

It's such an incredibly small thing, and such an incredibly important thing, and yet so many of us are missing this from our lives.  Most of us have world building to do – to step outside of our narratives, and talk to people - actually talk to them.  You don't have to be a great conversationalist to do this.  The easiest door to open is to invite people to talk about themselves, and to listen.  Or if you, like me, sometimes have trouble finding the right words, you can consider gestures.

Last year, I swung by the 24 hour bagel deli, to drop off cookies on Thanksgiving, because I felt bad that my acquaintance there had to drag themselves to work on the holiday.  He was deeply moved by the gesture.  I am saying this not to boast about a good deed, but to point out how easy it can be to make a connection with someone – that it costs nothing to brighten up someone's holiday, except in this case, for three dollars in cookies, and a few extra minutes of your time.

You would think that getting a feeling of community would be impossible in a city full of 9 million people, (especially a place like New Yoke - notorious for treating one another impersonally, and anonymously), but it's really not impossible.  Obviously, we all have limitations when it comes to social skill, and anxiety is an issue for a great many people, but regardless of whether you're like Pinkie Pie, or like Fluttershy, with a little bit of extra effort, we can expand our limits, even if only a little bit.  We can expand our universes, do some world building, and look beyond our own narratives.  

The idyllic community that we see in Ponyville, and yearn for in our lives is actually under our noses.  It's the people we interact with every day.

-Sprocket

Please support Heart Full of Pony on Patreon.  You can also follow my essays on tumblr.

Oct
11th
2016

Happy Equestrian New Year!  6 years ago today, our universe was forever changed when a children's show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic tore a hole in the spacetime continuum and offered us a glimpse into another realm - a place populated by small colorful horses - a place saturated with bright colors, bright music, and even brighter morals.

My Little Pony, the show, has had ups and downs.  A lot of us like to argue our vastly contrasting opinions regarding which episodes were great, and which episodes were not so great - which season best captured the essence of what Pony can and should be - which writers, etc. etc. etc.  One thing has remained objectively consistent throughout all of that - optimism.  My Little Pony has given us six straight years or passionate, relentless optimism.

Today is the first of the year 6 A.E. (Anno Equi), and in celebrating it, we celebrate not just the show, and the fandom, but also that optimism.  We celebrate the world of Equestria itself - what it stands for - what it means to us.  We celebrate the millions of lives touched by My Little Pony, and the thousands of lives it changed in a truly transformative way.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the day when two great truths were first revealed here on the planet Earth: the fact that friendship is magic, (it is); and the fact that the sun and moon are steered, not by science and math and stuff, (as previously believed), but rather, by magical horse princesses who smile down on us through the celestial bodies that they control via a rift in the spacetime continuum that leads to the horse dimension.

Happy Equestrian New Year, everypony!  Happy 6 A.E.  Here's to six more.

-Sprocket

You can also follow Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! on tumblr

And on Patreon.  Please contribute if you are so inclined.   No pressure.