Life, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

Don’t Let The Lemons Get You Down: Love What You Want Without Shame

At the moment, I’m about halfway through Sunny Side Up: A Story Of Kindness And Joy by Susan Calman. I’d read her previous book Cheer Up Love: Adventures In Depression With The Crab Of Hate before, and loved it. I’m really enjoying this book too, as Calman looks at what it is to be kind in a world that actively tries to stifle kindness.

I came across a chapter last night where she talks about the people who try and stomp on the joy that other people feel. She calls them ‘lemons’, as they come and inject bitterness into something that should otherwise be sweet. When put like that, you can see why it’s so ridiculous that someone would want to do such a thing, but these Lemons are everywhere.

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Everyone’s encountered one at some stage of their life. A lot of the time, it seems teenage girls cop a lot of flack for the music they enjoy. There’s nothing more pure and joyous than the fandom you feel for a certain boy band. You love them. Their music speaks to you. You fancy the absolute arse off one or several of them. It’s wonderful, there’s nothing else quite like it. However, you mention your favourite boy band and people will fall over themselves to tell you how stupid, worthless or crap they are. Why?!

Lord knows I’ve had enough Lemons in my life trying to tell me the things I like are rubbish. For example, I collect toys, My Little Pony in particular. I’ve been collecting them for over a decade now. I have around 130 of them, they live in glass cabinets in my spare room and are full of colour and joy that they can’t fail to make me happy. I’ve attended conventions dedicated to them and made close friends with others with similar interests. They’re brilliant, and I love them.

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If I tell people I collect them though? You’d think I was an irredeemable child that needs to grow up, yesterday. ‘Why waste your money on it?’ ‘They’re just for kids!’ ‘That’s so stupid!’ These days I know that is someone says these things to me, then they’re not somebody that I want to be associating with. That person just wants to crap all over something that makes me happy, so why would I care what they think? In the past though, I kept my collecting a secret. I’d never tell anyone what I spent my money on, in case they’d look down on me.

Isn’t that just so sad? I wonder how many more friends I could have made if I’d just talked about what made me happy, without giving a damn about what others thought about it? That’s what Lemons do. If you’re not like them, then they’ll do you down, trample you until you fit in with everyone else.

Sounds overdramatic, but it’s true. Everyone has encountered Lemons that just want to make everyone else fit in with their own narrow worldview. They value their own tastes above everyone else’s, and will make you feel bad until you conform. There’s nothing to say that their tastes are better, either. A Lemon may sniff at you for reading Jilly Cooper rather than James Joyce, but they’ll also look down on you for liking one cartoon over another. It’s all arbitrary and basically pointless.

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It must be quite sad, being a Lemon. You’re so convinced that you’re ‘right’ that you can’t enjoy anything that doesn’t fit in your worldview. You can’t even make friends with other fans of what you like, as you don’t even believe them. This has lead to the rise of ‘gatekeeping’, where fans will interrogate other fans, asking them to ‘prove’ their loyalty. ‘You like this band? Name five of their albums.’ LoadingReadyRun lampooned this perfectly in their ‘The Gatekeeper’ sketch a few years ago.

It’s all just very unnecessary. If you have a Lemon in your life, don’t let them get you down. Don’t listen to them if they start doing down what makes you happy. If you’ve only been watching Doctor Who since the Eccleston years, or if you love delving into trashy novels of an evening rather than classic literature, don’t sweat it. You do you, and don’t give these Lemons any power.

Conventions, Hobbies, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

Glitter, Panels and Crabs: PonyCon 2018

As I wrote last week, I was heading out to Nottingham to attend the 15th annual UK PonyCon, the celebration of all things My Little Pony. Now it’s a week on, we’re all back to our regular lives. How was the con this time around?

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This was my 7th time attending UK PonyCon, and as a regular I knew exactly what I should be expecting. There was the usual mix of panels and events that are put on every year, plenty of which were mainstays of the convention. There was a vendor’s hall packed full of ponies and other nostalgic toys that you could peruse for hours, and drop quite a lot of cash in if you were so inclined. There were also lots of places where you could sit back and relax, or let your kids loose on some colouring pages or other crafts. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of things to do.

I ran a couple of panels this year, one I was delighted with, and one I wasn’t too happy with. The Pony Confessions panel, I felt, was a good idea in theory. I had invited people to come and share the silliest things they’d ever done in the name of collecting My Little Pony, whether that was accidentally cutting up a rare pony for customising, or selling a pony for way less than it was worth. In practice though, it wasn’t all that great. I’d been allotted an hour, and there was no way I was ever going to fill it. In the end, I had a committee member come and cut it off after half an hour. I don’t think I’ll be looking to bring that one back.

The panel I did enjoy was the Cartoon Riff, a panel I’ve been doing for a few years now right after the late night Pony Pub Quiz. At that point everyone’s had a few drinks and is ready for a good time, and I’m ready to give it to them. I had lots of bizarre old cartoon clips to show the crowd, including some from the Ghost Stories English dub, the Tom And Jerry Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and Neo Yokio. The best one, though, was the Crab Rave.

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This video features a lot of CGI crabs dancing their little crustacean hearts out on a deserted islands, and I decided to end the evening with it. I had a few glow sticks left over from the ones I’d bought for another event I’m attending in December, and so I had them passed out before the video started. As I hit ‘play’, I heard the crowd start to chant ‘CRAB RAVE, CRAB RAVE’ and I knew I had a hit. Everyone raved their hearts out to the Crab Rave before it was time for the venue to close for the evening, and I was very proud of myself. Now I need to figure out how to top this next year!

The best thing about PonyCon for me, though, was hanging out with friends I don’t see very often. I’ve made a core group of friends through the convention, which is wonderful as they are some of the best people I’ve ever known. As we live all over the country though, it’s hard to get together and hang out in real life, rather than in a Whatsapp chat. PonyCon gives us the excuse to hang out together for 2 whole days, something we’d never do otherwise.

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The best parts of the con weren’t the events or ‘official’ con happenings. For me, it was getting together with friends to eat pizza and howl over terrible fan fiction.

If you want to see more of UK PonyCon, I tried my hand at vlogging for the very first time. Here’s my vlog on PonyCon 2018, where I travel to Nottingham, cover myself in glitter, and stay up way too late every night.

Conventions, Hobbies, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

UK PonyCon: A Con Quite Unlike Any Other

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be winging my way to Nottingham to attend UK PonyCon 2018, the 15th consecutive con dedicated to all things My Little Pony. This’ll be the 7th time I’ve attended UK PonyCon, and it certainly won’t be the last. What is it about the con that has seen it stand the test of time, where other, similar cons haven’t?

UK PonyCon was set up way before the creation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (often shortened to MLP:FiM), and was originally designed for fans of the 80’s toys and beyond. At that point in 2004, there had already been three different iterations of the classic toy, and the con appealed to both adults and child fans alike.

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I was originally told about the con way back in 2010, when it was being held in my home city, Birmingham. I didn’t investigate it further, because I didn’t know anyone else who was into collecting personal small horses. I regret it now, because I could have got into the scene a couple of years earlier.

In the end, I decided to attend the 2012 con, which was being held in Nottingham. More specifically, it was in a Jury’s Inn in Long Eaton. Their main room was a tiny space where all their vendors were crammed in together, all with tables piled high with ponies and other pastel coloured treats. Despite the space, there was a genuine air of happiness and camaraderie. It was easy to meet people and start making friends, as everyone was happy to chat about their collections.

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Photo Credit: TechnoAndrew, Flickr

I started making it a point to attend every year, and soon I made a tight knit group of friends. In 2014 I volunteered for the first time, running a karaoke event for both the kids and adults to enjoy. The next year, I came onto the organising committee helping to run the events, a role I’d keep for two years.

It was exhausting but I loved it. There was nothing quite like watching the con come together over the year. During the weekend, we’d be run ragged, but it was all worth it to see people enjoying it. I remember quite vividly a mother coming up to me during the karaoke event in 2015, and telling me how happy she was seeing her daughter playing with others that shared her excitement about ponies. It was genuinely really sweet.

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I no longer work on the committee, but I’m still running a couple of panels for PonyCon this year. One thing I’ve seen among repeat visitors to the con is that they’re all deeply invested in keeping the con going. They understand that it’s become more than a simple fan convention. It’s a giant get together for friends from all over the country (and beyond!). I know I’m looking forward to seeing friends that I normally only get to see once or twice a year. It’s two whole days of wallowing in brightly coloured plastic ponies, a chance to go back to childhood and soak up some of that sweet, sweet nostalgia.

UK PonyCon saw a huge boost in attendance after 2010, when the new cartoon was released. Thanks to the newest My Little Pony fandom, the Bronies, the attendance is more varied than ever before. One of the things I’ve really liked about UK PonyCon was its insistence that fans of all iterations of the ponies were welcome. It’s great to see people getting together and just having a good time.

I’m seriously looking forward to the con this year, and I’m hopefully going to provide a write up next week. If you’re reading this on your way there, let me know!