May 30, 2009

"The most thrillingly different motion picture you have ever seen!"

Pride of the Blue Grass

Ever since having stumbled onto all the old James Bond movies in On Demand, and deciding that watching the trailers was far more entertaining than watching the actual movies, I've had a thing for old trailers. Such as this one. Admittedly, my favorite thing is the trailer's inability to decide if the movie was the most thrilling or the most different. The most thrillingly different! (In actuality, I wouldn't call it either.)

I love old movies. Especially the ones that are overly sentimental, ridiculous, and involve people getting into fist fights numerous times for little to no reason. Don't like someone? Possibly that someone may have insulted your great aunt you probably (although you're not too sure) never actually met? Punch them in the face! Although, don't act shocked if the person punches you right back, because it's damn well happening. Every time.

Pride of the Blue Grass, not to be confused with 1954's Pride of the Blue Grass, hits the trifecta. Sentimental, ridiculous, and random punching. Wonderful! This is a movie I can watch. It all starts out with Danny. Danny's dad committed an awful error at some point in his life, and the whole racing community shuns him as if he were a leper. So I guess it all starts out with Danny's dad. REGARDLESS, whatever happened rubs off on Danny's reputation, resulting in relationship woe for Midge and Danny, because Midge's father, Bob, will not allow young love between his daughter and the boy who has nothing to do with whatever his dad did way long ago. So the two are forced to talk to each other on the phone and pretend they're parsing Latin verbs. This means that Danny's mare has foaled, and Midge has escaped Bob's wrath!

Midge runs over to see the new foal, but I guess somehow Bob figured out that talking about Latin verbs on the phone was code for my daughter is sneaking over to that boy's house! And he hauls Midge away. Afterward, the barn is struck by lightning, and only Danny and the foal survive. Danny decides to become a roving track brat, leaves the foal with Midge, and takes off.

The foal, Gantry the Great, is impossible. Bob doesn't want to deal with him anymore, but then Danny shows up in some juvy court and for whatever reason the judge releases him into Midge's care. Never mind that they're both minors, okay. This is how things worked in 1939, CLEARLY. Just to be sure that this is okay, the judge calls Bob, and Bob stresses that he's not okay with this, but inexplicably it doesn't seem to matter to anyone. Midge gets her way, and Danny proceeds to punch out one of Bob's exercise riders who looks shockingly like Chris Kattan. Danny and Gantry are put to pasture, which is convenient for them because Danny gets to finally train Gantry.

The plot of Wonder's Promise with a side of Cindy's Glory invariably ensues. If Ashleigh and Cindy were likely to punch out people for making snide remarks, anyway. Who here wants to see Ashleigh punch Brad? WHO? It can't just be me, right? (This may seem like a rapid departure from my normal attitude, but I don't really care.) Well, Gantry eventually shows his stuff, is promoted to most awesome horse in the barn, and is put on the path to Kentucky Derby awesomeness.

But he does not win the Kentucky Derby! Everyone goes from loving Danny to assuming he threw the race. That's love and support for you, Danny. At least Midge has his back. They discover that Gantry is blind, so clearly he cannot run in races anymore. I mean, that's logical. Even the Thoroughbred series didn't put Pirate in more races after discovering he couldn't see. Danny gets to stay at the farm, but he's not finished yet. Oh, no. Gantry may not be able to race, but surely he can, like, jump things. Right?

So what's like racing, but involves more work and more skill and more athleticism that could possibly be a wise career move for Gantry? That's right, kids, steeplechasing! And not just steeplechasing. The Grand Freaking National.

And that is where I'll leave this entry. Oh, except for this. I love that TIME has been randomly putting every article they ever published online. 1938: blind horse jumps something at Ak-Sar-Ben. 1939: blind horse stars in his own movie! Fantastic.

Breaking out another childhood movie for no good reason.

The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit

This is one of those movies I first saw when I was about eight. It's been a long time, with mostly everything about this movie being lost to me except for the following three things: the horse is 1) gray, obviously, 2) enjoys beer, and 3) is ridiculously talented. That is pretty much what I remembered, so I was of the opinion that watching it again couldn't possibly ruin any fond childhood memories.

This fast-paced, rollicking Disney adventure combines fatherly love and corporate survival with exciting horseplay and budding romance. The highjinks begin when harassed New York advertising executive Fred Bolton (Dean Jones) acquires a horse for his painfully shy daughter as part of a hurriedly conceived promotional campaign. With help from an attractive riding instructor (Diane Baker), and his daughter's would-be boyfriend (Kurt Russell), Fred hopes the horse will bring his client fame, save his own job, and just maybe finance his daughter's expensive equestrian habit! A must-see for every Disney fan and lover of good wholesome old-fashioned fun.

Yes, Kurt Russell! Don't worry, he doesn't come flying out of nowhere to smack you in the face with his questionable anti-hero qualities. No, he cruises in with a fancy car and a cavalier, yet knowledgeable, attitude about everything. In short, he's harmless.

The real story is the widower Fred, his typical horse story main character daughter (Helen), and the woman who "instructs" her (Suzie). Fred doesn't like horses, and is mainly irritated that Helen's riding lessons are so expensive. Helen mainly just wants a horse of her own, and is willing to pout and serve her father enough martinis until he's drunk enough to say yes to any request she might have. (Because I suppose getting one's parents drunk was an acceptable practice in this decade. That or it's just acceptable for the middle class Disney fans of this decade. I'm not sure which.) I mainly feel for Fred in this scenario, because no matter what he's going to get screwed over. His daughter is going to manipulate him with alcohol and his daughter's riding instructor is overcharging for lessons that involve mainly, "Good! Excellent! Now when you put your horses away, make sure to close and latch the stalls!" I mean, this isn't exactly quality. Fred has a reason to complain.

But Fred has other problems. Namely, his marketing campaign for Aspercel (think Tums, or something in that vein) took a nosedive, and he's out of ideas. Somehow, his marketing and his daughter's want for a beautiful, Grand Prix level horse crash in a crazy scheme to get people to buy this product. If they buy a horse, rename it Aspercel, and have Helen ride it to the Nationals (or something), then surely this is a marketing campaign bound for success! I fail to see how this is going to be successful, unless heartburn is common among the show jumping crowd.

Anyway. The horse is great. Helen actually really sucks. Your plan is backfiring, Fred! Probably you need a better instructor who doesn't yell "Great! Fantastic! You saddled your horse perfectly today, Helen!" instead of something constructive. But we can't tell Fred this, you see, because he's sort of fallen for Suzie. Typical, Fred. That's just great.

Because Helen is a whiner, she decides she's going to quit showing because it isn't fun anymore after she's finally amassed what looks to be talent. Fred is understanding, and because Suzie is probably realizing how horrible she is as a teacher, she decides to ride Aspercel in the Nationals.

The longest show jumping sequence in the history of ever commences. It was actually about as interesting to me as reading a show jumping scene, which is typically just as boring, if not more so. I skimmed through this eventually, because after about five minutes I start tuning out. Horses jump, horses jump some more, people applaud, horses jump, all leading to a not very astonishing conclusion!

Not so much a comedy, not so much a drama. Reaches a period of stagnant boredom that it cannot haul itself out of about halfway through. It's Disney in 1968.

May 29, 2009

Petz Horsez 2

Petz Horsez 2

First off, sorry for the lack of game reviews -- I haven't been feeling the best, with the heat and blood work and crap. So this review might not be what it could be. But now I'm doing a review for a beautiful game (for PC, there's also a Wii version, but I don't really like consoles), Petz Horsez 2. The name makes it sound like a really shitty game (something as shitty as Let's Ride! Corral Club) but it's actually very good. Developed by a little French company called Lexis Numerique, and published by Ubisoft.

Description (from Amazon):
Saddle up for fun in a game that combines your passion for horses with thrills and adventure! You'll be rewarded for raising horses, training champions, and saving the ranch in Petz Horsez 2.

On the back of the box, it says there's different ways the story can end. I've played it several times and only gotten two different endings, which is also confirmed by snooping around in the program folder.

Also, in the manual, here's an introduction:

Emma, a young Californian passionate about horse riding, has arrived in France for work experience with a famous Parisian vet before she finishes her studies. Stuck in Provence because her taxi broke down, Emma meets Flora and her nephew Raphaël, both of whom work in a superb stable not far from the picturesque village of Bélèou. However, dramatic events are simmering beneath the surface of the apparently idyllic stable. Marie, the stable’s owner, has mysteriously disappeared, and the Mayor of Bélèou has his eye on the stable...will you be able to solve the mystery and keep the wonderful stable in the hands of its rightful owner?

Not bad, pretty accurate, although the nephew is actually Oliver. I looked around in the game files again, and opened up some text files under the Asset\US\Database\Feature\Dialogs folder, which contain all the dialog, and found out that the character is actually listed under Raphael! (I guess that somehow it got changed over during the French-to-English translation and they didn't update the manual.)

I'm not going to give away any more of the plot, other than to say that the mayor is very creepy and looks ugly as hell.

Okay, now the game. Beautiful graphics, although it can be buggy in a few places (one example is if you're looking for a camera crew, it'll be nowhere to found -- until you go to talk to the priest and find out they're invisible! I'm not gonna give any more away, but you'll remember if you get to that point.) Nice gameplay -- you buy and sell horses, train and care for them, buy stuff on market days, talk to the villagers to find out their stories, and also try to solve the mystery. The game runs on "days", with about 1 second per day. You can only work with the horses from 8am to 8pm, rather realistic.

Here's the stud farm:

That's where the care and training of horses takes place. There's also the village, where a lot of the plot takes place. And of course, the countryside. (I'm not going to take screenshots of them, as there would be too many -- However, I will take some on request.)

It's a very well-made game, not many criticisms except for the invisible camera crew. I'd recommend buying it -- I got it for $20 and man it's a deal.

May 26, 2009

I just don't believe in the feud.

3.2: The Feud

The Good:

+ Ashleigh is busy riding horses like crazy in an attempt to earn back the money Tor stole, and she's so busy she doesn't notice that she runs into the saddling paddock in the wrong silks. Sure, this probably isn't at all likely. The important thing here is that Ian again expresses what I believe to be humor when he tells her deadpan what day and race and time it is. Oh, Ian. You're sort of awesome this season. 2 points!

+ Ashleigh apologizes to Brad for her lashing out in the previous episode, and he refuses to forgive her until she gets on the ground and "fries like bacon." She actually does it, and they commence flirting. 2 points for the randomness of that bacon thing, and 1 point for the flirting. I'm easy, okay?

+ Mike is being upfront about his being broke again. Thank you for your honesty, Mike. You are really lucky to be with Samantha, who has enough money to not care what sort of financial problems you're having. Good job! 1 point!

+ By god, someone keys us in on a vague age range for these characters. Mike is "over twenty." I know, it's obvious, but this is so ambiguous that the three references to school back in season one were starting to bother me. 1 point!

+ I hope Bobby never leaves the show. He's installed a mechanical bull in the club from last season, and he's gone to "yoga camp." He's also weirdly insightful now for a guy who was waving a gun around in the first season. Bobby, you shift gears far faster than everyone else in this show. You receive 3 points!

+ 2 points for Samantha trying to force feed a vegan dish on people who clearly just want to eat their taquitos in peace.

+ Samantha! Again with your weird character growth! Mike insists that they have always been rivals with Townsend Acres, and she insists right back that this "doesn't mean [they] have to keep doing it." Mike gives her a look like she started speaking Russian out of nowhere, so that's 2 points for Samantha, and 1 point for Mike's dumbfounded look.

+ Hey, it isn't fall anymore! It's, like, summer. For some weird reason. 1 point!

+ Brad and Ashleigh kiss! 5 points for making me giggle, which is kind of pathetic, but there you have it. I'm such a sad little shipper at this point.

+ After all the plot that goes on with Ashleigh having to sell Wonder's Pride back to Townsend Acres, Brad has an outburst at Dani and storms out of the house like he'll never return. Everyone does a basic shrug and totally ignores him. The Townsend family dysfunction is the best kind. 3 points!

+ Need to clear your head? Ride the mechanical bull! Plus 3 points!

Good: 27

The Bad:

- While Ashleigh is taking a brief break from riding horses like crazy, Mike saunters in and is all, "Why are you doing work? You don't even like riding horses that aren't Wildfire." Mike, shut up. Finally someone is doing something that resembles work on this show and you're acting shocked and awed. You know what, never mind. This is classic you. Minus 1!

- I disagree with putting clips in your hair in a halfhearted attempt at pigtails. It looks like Caroline appeared and tried to inflict bad hair styling on Ashleigh, and I think we all know how that always ended up. Minus 1.

- Why does Ashleigh need MORE TIME to figure out whether or not she and Brad need to move forward? Seriously, show, this is getting rather ridiculous. Minus 2! But...Brad is so adorable in this scene and so freakishly patient 2! Just, you know, never mind.

- "We'll fight fire with Wildfire!" Oh, Mike. You need to stick to angsting. Minus 1!

- I'm glad to know that not only will Ashleigh whore herself out for her horse, she will whore her horse out for Whitebrook. Wildfire does kids parties now! Minus 3! But Dani one ups them by buying the kid a pony, thereby clinching the all important child vote on where this kid's father will board his horses. I hated this scene. It might be one of the stupidest scenes this show has ever dreamed up. Minus 4!

- "I hear you two make quite the team!" NO! Brad, do not say that of Ashleigh and Mike. I know what you're doing, show, and I don't like it one bit! Minus 5!

- Mike goes to horse boarder guy and delivers a speech about how great Whitebrook is and how horses are blah blah inspiring blah and I'm supposed to believe this when in just the last episode he's all, "what is this horse stuff, huh?" I don't buy this at all. And of course it works. This client makes the worst decisions. Minus 2.

- "The Reeses need me!" There goes Ashleigh again on her insistence at pitting her relationship with Brad against her adoptive (but not) family. Why do they do this? And why does Brad back all of this up by doing the exact opposite? Minus 2! And minus another point (1) for dangling the prospect of getting the power couple back together again, only to yank it away. I kind of hate you, show.

- Dude, Brad, it's called follow through. If you buy a horse and give the horse to someone else, you have to have the paperwork changed. Or at least have a bill of sale. Minus 2. BUT, at the same time, how did he purchase the horse from Whitebrook to begin with if Townsend Acres is on all of Pride's paperwork? Minus another point for shoddy plotting! And there goes Wonder's Pride to live at Townsend Acres.

Bad: 23

27 - 23 = 4

So, to keep track:
1. Fairy Tale Endings: 16
2. The Feud: 4

Wow, that Brad/Ashleigh kiss did not help this episode at all.

May 24, 2009

Romantic comedies need to happen more often in horse books.

The Gift Horse
by Jami Davenport
Never look a gift horse in the mouth?

City boy Carson receives a temperamental gift horse complete with strings attached: transform a run-down horse farm into a showplace and a disorganized horse trainer bent on self-sabotage into a winner. His horse trainer has her own agenda, one that puts her life and his heart on the line.

I pretty much automatically love a person with a sense of humor, and going by The Gift Horse, I have a feeling Jami Davenport is my sort of person. Maybe not Barbara Dunlop sort of hilarious, but damn amusing in a way that doesn't involve desert raiders and a character's belatedly realizing they don't know how to read a language like, say, Arabic. For me, this is fantastic, because if we're going to head straight back into romance on this blog, there had best be some comedy. It's the only thing that saves me from rolling my eyes.

Well, anyway, to the plot. Sam is a disheveled mess who has recently returned home from Germany after a harrowing experience with a barn fire that inconveniently occurred at the barn she just happens to be returning to. Carson is the son of the owner. Carson is also neat and orderly and what some might call boring. At least he's good looking. And Sam is at least sort of pretty (if not beautiful) under all that dirt. Through family plotting that I am in no way going to get into, Carson becomes the half-owner of Gabbie, the dressage horse Sam hopes to ride into the upper echelons of the sport. But then her old trainer shows up, and all this crap starts to happen that drags up her past with the aforementioned barn fire, and a plot from Days of our Lives suddenly springs forth.

New friendships are tested! Old friendships are (really) tested! Gabbie keeps throwing herself at Carson, who keeps rebuffing her! The barn manager keeps slinking around, taking detailed notes on everyone! Everyone thinks this is very weird! Also, why are these horses suddenly going lame? Who stands to benefit? Will Sam learn how to brush her hair and launder her clothes in a timely manner? Will Carson loosen up a little and stop storing his underwear in tidy rows in his dresser? Will Gabbie ever get Carson to reciprocate her feelings, or will she be doomed to her own species for the rest of her natural life? The drama! The drama.

Okay, here are the two main things that I loved about this book. The first: Sam and Carson's first sexy encounter occurs in a "bordello on wheels." The bed may or may not "whirl around like a carnival ride." I kind of think that was metaphor working its magic, but I like to think of it as literal. The second: people spend most of the book thinking Juan the barn manager has lost, literally, all of his sense, because he will not stop acting like a private investigator who is very obvious at his job. This, however, is an act. By the end everyone does a collective who is this guy? and I fell in love with him...just a little bit. And I really love how he's like, "I'm out, bitches!" and just randomly leaves and everyone's too in awe of his awesomeness to really question it. Juan, you so deserve your own romance novel!

Anyway. I liked Sam's inability to function, while still demanding she can function just fine. Most romance novels seem to hinge on the girl being the most amazing girl ever and the boy being the most manly boy ever, and this book seems more focused on the two continually surprising each other, which would be great if it wasn't the characters moving away from their quirks and into the romance novel formula. For instance, as it turns out Sam can clean up nicely! And Carson can actually play sports, evaluate an engine, and fix fences! That said, the book does go the opposites attract route, and then does follow up on the suggestion that they'll never work out, like, twice. So that was interesting. Another fun aspect is the point of view changes. Every so often, Gabbie gets to step up and tell it like it is...despite not really knowing anything because she's a horse who cannot speak English. Gabbie makes the book and refreshes the old romance formula. Whenever Carson and Sam get sort of tiring, Gabbie is always portrayed perfectly. And Juan never gets old. Obviously.

So, other than a few small things and some typos (unfortunately for most of the population, "shoe-in" is a misspelling) I enjoyed it.

And I totally want Juan to get his own book. Please, Jami? Pretty please?

(The Gift Horse will be available in print at Amazon and B&N June 2009.)

May 22, 2009

Talking about vintage video games...

Harvey Smith Showjumper

So I downloaded this Commodore 64 game called Harvey Smith Showjumper. It's....interesting. It would be a lot easier if I actually had a joystick but I'll survive. (I used WinVICE for my emulator. Not too bad.)

If you have no idea what the C64 is, check out this:

No CDs -- they used cartridges, cassettes (yes, the same kind you play music on, except if you put it into a cassette player it'd sound like dial-up), and floppy disks. Couldn't find a description, really. But the game's from the 80s. So I started up the game and got this opening screen, which is nice considering it's 8-bit graphics.

I couldn't figure out how to get past it for a minute, it just said "Press Fire To Continue." Then I figured out to set up the numeric keypad as the joystick. Yay! So this is pretty simple enough:

I just hit P to play the course. I'm not quite sure how the course designer would work, I didn't get a chance to muck around in that. So I end up riding a prancing horse:

I have a habit of using the arrow keys so it took a bit to turn him around. And it's pretty hard to hit the print screen button at the same time, so the next screenshot, which is supposed to be the horse jumping, isn't so good: interesting game if you like 8-bit games. Or old computers. Or C64s. I like C64s, although I don't have one.

Want to try it yourself? Here's the game:

And an emulator:

May 20, 2009

Heartland: More moral lessons and some bile for me...

Every New Day
Heartland #9
by Lauren Brooke

Firstly, I actually fucking hate this series. I would say it's the worst horse series ever created, but sadly Chestnut Hill takes that title going away.

So in this book, Every New Day, our dear Amy Fleming is a busy girl. She's grappling with a relationship with Ty, the stable boy. Who dropped out of school to become a Super Horse Helper. There's a winner for you, right there! People in this book actually have the audacity to say that Amy and Ty are perfect for each other. Yeah... I'd take that one as an insult, Amy.

Anyway, Amy is all shy about telling people 'cause she thinks this will place pressure on her. Besides, she's all determined to go to this Okanumba place that's run by this Native American horse whisperer, Huten. Apparently, her mother made a promise that she would go back there one day. And that didn't happen... cause... well... you know. Bad stuff happened.

Amy starts working with Mercury, the featured troubled equine of this book. Mercury is owned by two guys and I just get the impression that they're gay. Two guys who ride? Who joint own a horse? Pardon me for stereotyping here, but years of reading these type of books have ingrained that tendency into me.

Back to Mercury. Ok, so this horse is a showstopper. But he's been badly treated in the past (big shocker there) and had his legs rapped to make him jump higher. Amy tries to fix him, and she and Ty disagree over some crap. Things don't go well. Mercury takes off with Amy, freaks out when he's even near fences.

Amy gets a brainwave! Maybe Huten can help! Then she can fulfill her mother's promise too! Yay! It doesn't take much to convince her grampa and big sister, Lou. Ty gets all sulky because his opinion doesn't matter. Boo-hoo.

So, she ends up going there for a week. Skipping school and everything. But we all know school isn't a big deal in horse books, so moving along here.

Huten is all blase and shit. How dare he ignore her needs! He makes Amy just sit in the paddock with Mercury! And goes for a walk ON FOOT to some tourist village where people are weaving baskets... is it the reed or the basket that the people are thinking about? This is the powerful question he poses Amy. She's all like 'duh... the basket!' and Huten is 'yeah... no. Wrong answer.'

Then Amy goes for a hack with Mercury and gets lost and then Mercury finds the way back and she's freaked that no one cares...

Only, it turns out it's all been part of her training. She has to let Mercury just decide things for himself! Wow!

After that revelation, Amy is able to jump Mercury. And then she makes up with Ty, who concedes that she was right all along.


You know, I find it bloody hard to believe that a horse can be fixed just like that. I have been working with an Arab mare now for two weeks just doing ground work. Yes, I admit that I am trying out Parelli. And that it's surprisingly getting results. However, fixing broken horses takes time! I haven't even attempted to get on Shakeelah yet! Heartland, you are messing up the perceptions of young readers worldwide that natural horsemanship is a quick fix! It's not. Parelli himself states that it is a lengthy process. And I don't buy the Monty Roberts way of doing stuff, either. I'm just saying...

May 19, 2009

Wildfire: I enjoy ridiculous point systems.

3.1 Fairy Tale Endings

Season 3 of Wildfire was recently released to DVD this spring, so by all means feel free to run out and buy a copy so you can keep up with the madness here at the blog.

(Note: Don't stare at the cover for too long, because Ashleigh's eyes might start giving you a headache.)

So here's the deal with these Wildfire reviews: I'm bored of the the format. Oh, sure, I'm still going to treat this like a Thoroughbred fanfic, so rest assured that Kris still equals Ashleigh and Junior still equals Brad. I'm too invested in their relationship to change that now. However, I feel these reviews would benefit from a totally abstract and arbitrary adding and subtracting point system that I am completely stealing from other various places. Like major publications and friends and such.

Let's start out with the good news first:

+ The Dani and Clay dynamic. It may be all over the place, but I happen to love family dysfunction. Clay's appeals process is going slowly because he's "blowing through" the money she's given him. Dani is "too busy" to help him out again, because the farm comes first, even if "too busy" is staring at paint swatches so she can blow some of that hard earned cash on redecorating her new office in soothing rose tones. Dani, you are awesome, even if you might be a financial death trap. 3 points!

+ Ian might be showing hints of deadpan humor this season, at least when he's playing off of Jean. It's just that when Jean says "Should I be worried?" for no reason I can really pinpoint and Ian walks by and says, "Probably." I appreciated it. 2 points!

+ Montages! Ashleigh and Brad montages involving angst and cell phone stroking! Should they call each other while Ashleigh waits at stupid Tor's hospital bed, or should they angst some more? I think you know the answer. One (1) point for more Ashleigh/Brad unresolved tension.

+ Mike is being irresponsible again. I only mention this as a positive because I happen to enjoy it when Mike is being irresponsible. This time he's not only shirking duties, but convincing himself that he has no role at Whitebrook. Mike's turmoil makes me happy, so two (2) points!

+ Clay is actually being sentimental and concerned about Dani putting a horse he bred in a claiming race. Color me shocked! 1 point!

+ Mike's grandfather died. (Apparently he was in Australia all this time?) The important thing here is Mike's reaction to the will, which has a clause that Mike can only inherit half of Whitebrook if he manages to do something with this Andalusian stallion the old man shipped to Whitebrook from Australia. That's shitty luck, Mike. I love it! 3 points!

+ Instead of doing something with the horse, Mike decides to embrace his non role at Whitebrook, sell the horse at a fancy auction, and run off to Africa with Samantha. At the auction, one champagne sipping woman has a moment of sheer stupidity and tries to embrace the horse, freaking everyone out and causing disaster. The horse runs off, and I can only assume someone catches it. It is awesome when one of Mike's plans fail. Who's going to Africa now, huh? 2 points!

+ Tor eventually wakes up, and Ashleigh gives him a tiny juice box. He sips from this tiny juice box all through Ashleigh's emotional moment. Maybe it's just me, but the juice box held my complete attention and detracted from yet another dramatic Ashleigh moment, so I give the juice box a point (1) just for being there.

+ Brad takes off his shirt and repeatedly hits a punching bag! Well, naturally this gets ten (10) points.

+ Tor goes to jail for fraud or something! And Ashleigh gets to yell at him! 6 points!

+ Clay takes the purse from the claiming race, in which her horse didn't get claimed, and gives it to Clay in a moment of daughterly affection. Clay uses it to bribe his way back into the good graces of the federal government. The purse couldn't possibly have really done this, but I don't care. Everyone is all daddy bribed the feds! Let's have a heartwarming moment! 3 points.

+ Baby Wonder is given a name by both Ashleigh and Brad: Wonder's Pride (Flame). Two (2) points for the coincidence that both name him Flame at two different points in the story without realizing it, and two (2) more points for the awesome coincidence that he looks exactly like Wonder's Pride. Awesome!

The Good: 38

And now to the bad:

- Mike's had new hair for every season, from lots of curls to sort of cropped and now it's looking a little curly and gelled and unpleasant. It made me grimace during an entire scene. Minus 1!

- Mike's "got to figure out this 'horse stuff,' whatever that means." Okay, I like that Mike is in turmoil about his role, but do not try to sell me on the notion that you don't know what "horse stuff" is or how to go about doing "horse stuff," Mike. Please. Minus 2.

- Why would the police call Brad and tell him that Tor was actually flying to Mexico instead of Colorado and back to the Breeders' Cup? What sense does that make other than it gives Ashleigh a reason to overreact to any suspicion of his? Minus 2.

- Uncle Jesse has pulled his hair into the tiniest ponytail known to man. Bad hair is genetic in the Reese family, I think. Minus 1.

- It has been fall for EONS. Can we move on to a new season, please? Minus 1.

- Apparently it's Ashleigh's fault that Tor forged some paperwork and had all the Breeders' Cup purse money wired into a fraudulent account? How is that possible? Tor is Ashleigh's agent, and has nothing to do with Whitebrook. Not to even mention, Ashleigh's account is wiped out. Are we going to remember that any time soon? This is no one's fault but Tor's, people. Sure, you're never going to see your purse money and the farm is falling into disrepair, but I'm pretty sure this mistake is solely Jean's. Minus 4.

- Dani's office is way too much like an 18-year-old's dorm room. And for all that work on paint and carpet samples, it really only looks like she bought some colored markers and a couple vases of roses. Minus 2 for shoddy decor!

- Since when does yelling petulantly at a horse mean gaining that horse's respect? really did lose your touch with horses. Minus 3.

- Mike and Ashleigh gallop off, leaving Brad to stare after them in that knowing way that creeps me out because I KNOW what you're up to, show! I disapprove! Minus 8!

The Bad: 22

Total: 38-22 = 16

16! I guess that's good? We'll just have to keep at it to see how the other episodes measure up.

May 18, 2009

For those looking for a more annoying Ashleigh...

Horse Mad Series
Vol. 1: Totally Horse Mad
By Kathy Helidoniotis
Published in US: Aug. 15, 2008

The first book in an exciting new series about the adventures of a horse-crazy Australian girl named Ashleigh.

Ashleigh Miller is mad about horses, and she craves her own. But she can’t afford one, her parents don’t know anything about horses, and there just isn’t room in her tiny back yard in the city. So, when Ashleigh’s parents tell her that she can finally have a horse of her own, she thinks it’s the best thing ever. But the good news comes at a price. Ashleigh’s family is leaving the city and heading for the small country town of Shady Creek in rural Australia.

Ashleigh’s life is about to change, and her adventures have just begun.

Ok, this is a book that tried to assassinate poor Mara, so let’s see what we’ve got…

We open with Ashleigh Miller, aged 11, in a totally BS daydream of winning the Olympics. Her instructor, Holly, yells at her for being stupid, and her nemesis, Nicki, laughs. Ashleigh shows them though with the best barrel run EVER! Her instructor and teammate kiss her ass and Nicki (appropriately) acts disgusted.

Ashleigh determines she HAS to buy a horse of her own. Her BFF Jenna, in spite of obviously not giving a rat’s ass about horses, agrees to help.

Ashleigh, being eleven, can’t get a job, so she takes odd jobs instead. Her dad says he’s impressed with her initiative. That’s gonna bite him in the butt…

So Ashleigh tries to sell her parents' stuff to raise money. Her parents, for some reason, do not appreciate this, and ground her for two weeks. Then she tries to take her money and bet it on a race. Again, her parents get upset.

Side Note: I do have to say, though, that Ashleigh’s parents really do suck. It’s a running theme through all the books.

Ash’s parents tell her she can have a horse because, oh they forgot to mention, they bought a house in the country.

Ash breaks the news to her BFF by basically saying “I’m moving away from you and getting everything I ever wanted, YAY!!” For some reason, Jenna is upset that this beyotch is moving away, and stomps off, telling her she’ll never speak to her again.

Side Note: Another running theme in these books in Ashleigh’s unhealthy amount of love for her friends. It borders on creepy, but I personally am rather hermity, so maybe it’s just me.

So Ash and her parents move, and within five minutes of arriving, Ash stalks some kids to the nearby riding school, Shady Creek Riding Club. It’s ghetto compared to South Beach, but Ashleigh decides to grace the place with her presence anyway. She tries to impress the kids there with her Twelve-Under Championship, so they put her up on a psychotic horse named Scud, who bolts and tosses her.

Yet Another Side Note: Who freaking screams when a horse bolts? Is it supposed to make the horse feel better when you're clinging to their back and roaring like a wildcat? Ash is a moron.

With a wounded ego, she then meets Gary Cho, who owns the Riding Club, and his daughter Becky. Becky is the reject of the group, so of course she and Ash will be friends later.

The horses Ash and her father go to see all fail. A Shetland, an ancient, and an insane. Ashleigh would take them all if her dad let her. I feel there would be more than three horses for sale in rural Australia, but whatever.

The kids from Riding Club go after Ash at school, dubbing her ‘Spiller Miller’ until Becky shows up to save her. She then offers to let Ash borrow Cassata, her sister's neglected Appaloosa, until she gets a horse of her own.
So, of course, Ash goes home and buys a horse off the internet. This REALLY doesn’t go over well. She is in SERIOUS trouble, you guys. Plus her parents drop the bombshell that they are running out of money and can’t afford a horse right know. This really is another case of the Miller parents ass-suckyness, because, instead of telling her all this when she was asking about going to see horses, they just blew her off. Plus, who makes an expensive move without securing a job beforehand? Epic FAIL Millers.

That’s not to say that Ashleigh doesn’t act like a total brat. She hates everyone now. Becky has to twist her arm to get her to ride Cassata, because, seriously, what’s the point of riding a horse that isn’t even yours?

‘Course, then they find a emaciated chestnut horse in an abandoned field. The vet says she’s so bad that she may have to be put to sleep. Oh, noes! Ashleigh throws a shit fit, bullies her parents into letting her keep the mare, and names her Honey. Yays. She actually even gets her parents to let her miss school, but the mare doesn’t get any better. There are a million and one horse people around, and not one thinks that a worm infested horse might need more than one tube of wormer. You know, my horses get tube wormed (what they call drenching in this book) once a year. You’d think the vet in this book would have thought of that. Seriously, Ash is a ‘tard, but none of the adults are impressing me much either.

But, tada, the horse improves after the drench. And for whatever reason, everyone is impressed with Ashleigh because of it. What’s more, Honey is actually a champion in all the local events. Ash calls her old owner, she and Becky cry at him, and he decides to give her the horse to avoid going to court for neglect or something. Oh, and the horse’s name used to be Argonaut. Lame.

Ash and Honey get put on the team for some competition, knocking one of the others off. The Three (sigh) Creepketeers vow to get Ashleigh off the team.

Ash also has the problem of money. Since her parents are asstards, she is literally paying for everything herself, doing everything just short of selling blood and prostitution. She comes up with the plan to sell homemade ribbon brow bands, which she dubs ‘Bandies’, at the competition. But, in the meantime, she decides to collect cans.

In a truly hilarious scene, she fills a plastic bag with said cans and gets on Honey. Honey responds like any horse who hasn’t been properly desensitized would: she spooks. Ash, of course, loses her grip on the reins, grabs her horse like a wildcat and screams. Honey, sensibly, dumps her. I kinda love this horse.

Anyway, her bum plumber mother manages to get a job, so Ash won’t have to whore herself. She makes a butt load of (sigh) Bandies to sell at the competition, and her friend Jenna gets the stick out off her butt and writes Ash a letter. Yays.

Ash’s old nemesis, Nicki, shows up and trash talks. The Creepketeers dirty up Honey and Charlie, Becky’s horse. Then ‘someone’ spooks Honey by tying plastic bags all around her. Then they plan on loosening Honey’s girth right before the competition, but Ash sets up some espionage and gets them talking about it on film, foils their evil plans, and wins the day.

Then Jenna shows up and Ash’s day is like the best ever! And Jenna’s going to stay over summer break! And Jenna’s going to take riding lessons! And the book ends there.

There really isn’t much I can say about this book. It is the definition of ridiculous, and I think it’ll teach kids more ridiculous misconceptions about horses than the Thoroughbred series. Fortunately, generally where Ash does something stupid, bad things happen to her. Which leads me to a request. As I review these books, I’d like to engage you readers in discussions of “Ashleigh vs. Ashleigh.” Simply put, how does Ashleigh Miller measure up to Ashleigh Griffen? Ok, readers. Ready? Discuss! Should be interesting!

May 17, 2009

The Bad Luck Filly, or the pot calling the kettle black.

The Bad Luck Filly
Thoroughbred #42
by Alice Leonhardt

This book is hilarious! Let's take a look, shall we?

I never really liked this cover, mainly because the composition doesn't even try for pleasing. It also occurred to me recently that Melanie has selected a coat that Dracula would love. This isn't really surprising to me, come to think of it, because Melanie is the girl who wears purple fringed suede of her own free will. Despite that, I do like the background of this cover. I even like the attempt at shadows, and the vague suggestion that someone is leading that bay horse...totally ignoring that Melanie just got her ass handed to her and Image is about ready to tear out of her paddock.

Melanie has her hands full....

Melanie Graham can't help herself--she's fallen in love with the high-spirited black filly, Perfect Image. More than anything, Melanie wants to help train the filly and be the first one to race her.

Despite her name, Image is anything but perfect. The filly has been spoiled by her doting owner since birth, and is impossible to handle. In fact, her trainer wants to give up and turn Image into a broodmare, hoping her foals will have better sense than she does. But Melanie is sure that Image was born to win. Will Melanie fight for the horse she loves?

The Bad Luck Filly is initially amusing because it's about an old lady spoiling a filly rotten, thereby creating an animal that is impossible to handle, and it takes one of our beloved main characters, who are just as guilty of this behavior pretty much always, to correct it. It's actually mind boggling if you sit and ponder this plot for any stretch of time.

Because we haven't actually heard from Melanie's perspective in a while--all the way back to Dead Heat, under far different circumstances--this book takes a bit of adjustment. You don't really know where Melanie's mindset is, much less know anything about her relationship with Kevin. This convinces me that Melanie should have been thrown out as a main character when the Wonder's Legacy Trilogy occurred, because after five Christina books encompassing about three years, we don't know much at all about Melanie other than the following: she got her apprentice license, was pretty good up until she fell off Fast Gun, is now suffering through what can only be called self-esteem issues, and Kevin broke up with her because she's boring. That's all that can be said for her over three years, guys. What story can we dream up that makes her at all interesting?

Don't count Alice Leonhardt out! Oh, Alice will spin you a story. A rather obvious, predictable story that takes the Do It Yourself concept to a whole other level. We start out with Melanie and Christina exercising horses for Vince Jones. Christina is doing super fantastic lately, and Melanie is trying not to be jealous, but sort of failing. She is upset with herself that she's not as good as she wants to be, upset that Christina gets more attention, and upset that she doesn't have a super fantastic awesome wonder pony upon which she can slather attention. What is a sixteen-year-old senior in high school (is this possible without skipping a grade?) to do? Why, she has to find a super special horse totally out of the blue the moment she's feeling at her lowest about her failures at being awesome.

The horse is Image. What's weird about this is she's met Image before, but I guess the light bulb didn't click on until now. That's highly suspicious, Melanie. I doubt your commitment to the wonder pony! I'm not all that sure what attracts Melanie to Image, other than her shiny black wonder pony coat, but then she's seen that before, so I don't get it. She just springs at the filly like a twelve-year-old girl does to a chestnut horse, and that's that. Wonder pony/special main character bond of love and trust and awesomeness commences!

Or maybe not? Because then Image gets loose and nearly runs over Melanie, who has this idea that if she stands right in front of a charging horse she will: A) stop that horse in its tracks and B) make that horse fall in love with her and not C) accidentally be trampled. As it happens, Image just avoids her, ignores her totally, and Melanie falls in love. This is not what anyone intended, but I guess Melanie will just have to work with what she's given.

So, Image runs onto the track, causes an accident with Christina and Gratis, and everyone yells that Image is an idiot filly with a teeny tiny idiot brain. Melanie tries to say that she is really the smartest filly there ever was, only no one cares and shuts her up halfway through her spiel about Image's big, idiot brain. Vince decides to ship Image back to Tall Oaks, and Melanie manages to wiggle her way into helping train the filly in her spare time, because otherwise Image will be prepared for the ultimate doom...breeding. Yes, yes, are we all properly horrified? I thought you might be!

But first, Melanie has to go to a concert with Parker, Christina, and this guy named Fred. Because the concert is hot and makes the kids appropriately sweaty (in a G-Rated sort of way), Parker suggests that they go swimming. Christina is all for this, but wants to stop at home to get her swimsuit only to be laughed at, making her all flustered because just what is Parker implying? Surely it's not...of course he wouldn', no way! Yes, no way. Parker is implying that they swim in the clothes they've got on, Chris. You and your dirty mind! So they go to this house, where there is a lifestyles of the rich and famous party going on. Brad is there, drinking cocktails, probably drunk, regaling anyone who will listen about his awesomeness. And Ashleigh and Mike are there, for some reason, dancing all over the place in bare feet. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I have a feeling Brad's awesomeness has gotten to them. They have traded their jeans for silk shift dresses, so you know now that Brad has won the war.

Anyway, during the party Brad makes fun of Melanie's interest in Image, which comes totally out of nowhere. Kevin, however, knows why Brad doesn't want Melanie to care about Image! Kevin, please explain this to me, because I'm pretty sure this is baseless stupidity on Alice's part! Kevin: Brad is angry that he sold Image's dam to Freddy, blah blah blah, wants her back, blah. This is ridiculous, Kevin. I find this explanation lacking. Maybe he's just, I don't know, telling Melanie the truth. God forbid! Okay, maybe he's just toying with her for the fun of it. And then the kids jump in the pool.

So, as it happens, Image is quite insane. And quite annoying. And very out of control. And Melanie is completely out of her depth with her attempts at training her, which does not come as a surprise at all because she's never actually tried to train a horse before. So after a week goes by, and Melanie tries to saddle the filly, and the filly goes bonkers, who is surprised? No one? Naturally. Melanie gets Kevin to help her with Image. Things go splendidly, until Alexis (or the evil farm manager who only Melanie only senses is evil, of course) drives a van by the farm and spooks the filly. Kevin smacks his knee, and bruises himself badly enough to miss most of his soccer season, potentially throwing his soccer scholarship in doubt. To which I have to say that Ian probably has enough money to pay for Kevin's college in one fell swoop, so don't give me this bullshit about scholarships, Thoroughbred. The Wind Chaser storyline be damned!

Melanie goes through all the levels of self-doubt through this book, comes to the conclusion that she really doesn't know what she's doing, that she was stupid to believe she could just magic a connection between herself and Image, and then goes to the trusted, most valued source for advice. The great Ashleigh Griffen. So we get another rousing story of Ashleigh's Wonder and the meaning of hard work, and how you have to believe in your goal, because if you just want to train a horse to prove your doubters wrong you are totally not going anywhere! Although, Ashleigh, sweetie, are you forgetting that whole PROVING BRAD WRONG motivation that you KIND OF HAD all through, OH, FOUR BOOKS?

Sigh. SIGH. At this point, Melanie decides that Pirate is going to help Image get over her bitchiness. Pirate smacks Image around a little, teaches her the meaning of respect, and just like that Image calms down enough to be trained enough to pony well next to Pirate. Vince comes along, proclaims her racehorse material because she can pony without killing something, and decides to take her back to the track with him...where Melanie will never see her again! Melanie feels the unfairness of life. Poor her.

Because Brad has advised Ashleigh that she needs to take Star to Belmont (because Brad knows how to train racehorses better than she does...which is wildly apparent in some books, and this is one of them), Christina, Mike and Ashleigh go to Belmont and leave Melanie to her own devices. Melanie goes to Tall Oaks to see Image one last time, only to see her carted off to Turfway. Melanie suffers yet another mental break, pitches a fit, but Image is still carted off to Turfway. Then Kevin gives her a motivational, albeit brief, speech about...something. Then they follow the filly to Turfway.

  • She was awesome. Awesome!
  • I can't decide if U Got It is a really horrible attempt at fictionalizing U2, or if it's just the most pathetic attempt at band naming ever to exist in the history of Thoroughbred.
  • Strumming his guitar, Mikey Krash, the lead singer for U Got It, belted out the last line. The drummer beat his drums and cymbals in a frenzy, and the backup singers gyrated and wailed. That's it. Alice, I'm putting you on my list of authors never to take seriously ever again.
  • Who ever thought a song called "Jam With Me" might include lyrics "You gotta jam with me!" Alice, you are cementing my decision!
  • Who widens their eyes at Porsches, Jaguars and BMWs? Those are the cars of the sort of rich, but not flagrantly, stupidly rich. Get a grip, Mel.
  • Brad drives a blue sedan? I disapprove! Or maybe that's just the car he drives when he's trying to be inconspicuous?
  • Okay, it's time for another one of Brad's amazing fashion moments. Observe: Dressed in white pants with a perfect crease, his signature navy blue blazer with gold buttons, a crisp white shirt, and a blue cravat, Brad looked as though he were about to sail off on a yacht. ALICE. WHY. Also, this just lends more proof to my theory that the New Generation authors think Brad was born in the 1800's.
  • And why are Ashleigh and Mike at this party? Why are they wearing fancy clothes? What is going on here? I...just don't comprehend.
  • Why in the hell is Star running in 1 1/2 mile races at two?
  • "Belmont's got a mile-and-a-half Grade I race for two- and three-year-old colts." No it doesn't. It really doesn't.
  • Whitebrook hadn't had a horse like Star since Wonder's Pride had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Damn. There are so many things wrong with this statement, I don't even know where to start.
  • [Mike] was clutching the dashboard, his knuckles white. You know, this seems like a hard thing to do. Also, stop being a drama queen, Mike!
  • For the last time, Alice, there is no starting gun.
  • The Whitebrook crew is so American. Hot dogs, hamburgers, or fried chicken. Every night!
  • "I assume Image is a horse and not the name of your new boyfriend." Funny how you should say that, Will.
  • Alexis tells Melanie: "Welcome to the real world." Real world? What is this real world of which you speak? Thoroughbred doesn't attempt real, okay? It specializes in the literary equivalent of hugs and kisses.
  • "That's the girl I know and love!" Well, that was awkward. Nicely done, Kevin!

So, I did enjoy this book for the hilarity. I also enjoyed it for the fact that things don't end in hugs and happy whinnies. I also find it interesting that suddenly Whitebrook hasn't had a racehorse on par with Star since Wonder's Pride, which must have something to do with the editor's orders that nothing from the Cindy era ever be mentioned in the New Generation. At this point, Mary Anderson hadn't torn through that wall, so Wonder's Champion and March to Glory aren't just ignored, they don't exist. Frankly, I kind of like this version of Thoroughbred.

A video game that would make Cindy proud.

Let's Ride: Corral Club

My next game will be Let's Ride: Corral Club. There is no way to describe how TERRIBLE, how much of an ABOMINATION this game is!

Description (from Amazon):
Let's Ride: Corral Club lets you own and care for the horse of your dreams! Select a horse, choose a riding outfit and prepare for rodeo events. See if you can make it to the National Championship! Celebrate your accomplishments by viewing your high scores, ribbons and pictures of you and your horse. Save your memories in the Scrapbook and share photos of you & your horse with friends

First off.... this game refused to install on Vista. The Installshield would start up, go through the "preparing installation" thing then just disappear. I tried everything I could think of -- copying installation files to the HDD, patching InstallShield, editing INI files, compatibility mode, etc, etc. In the end, I didn't get it *properly* installed -- I just copied the program files from the disc. It worked fine by launching the executable.

Next - every time I tried to Alt+Tab to paste a screenshot into Paint then switched back, it'd just show a white box. Had to kill the process to get rid of it. Found a program that would take my screenshots (it's called ScreenStamp!) but it left an annoying date on the image. That's the price I pay for reviewing annoying games.

First off, the main menu:
That horrible shade of pink is enough to almost tear my eyes out. And the flowers make me want to yank out my hair at the same time.

So you start a new game and get a horse. And the default name of the horse is "Rainbow." Cindy, I wasn't aware you became a game developer, but you need to try a little bit harder. 'Cause this game SUCKS.
So you groom your horse. But it's not really grooming. 'Cause you don't have to do it -- all it is is running a brush over his coat. It doesn't make him any cleaner or any dirtier. And you can also feed him apples and carrots and of course he'll never colic.

So you can take your horse out to ride. You can choose between practice, competition, or the pasture. So I picked practice. I have no idea what happened here, but somehow the character turned invisible (stupid buggy games making the screenshots not work. DAMMIT. And stupid runaway horse called Rainbow, 'cause Rainbow is a dumb name for a horse, you hear me??)

If you happen to make a really tight turn around a barrel, the character screams "YEE-HAW!" or "VERY IMPRESSIVE!" or something equally annoying in her voice which hurts my ears. And if you ride in the competitions and win, this sugary high pitched voice says something which I can't make out because it's so high pitched and sugary and LOUD.... Damn, maybe it'll help if I turn down the speakers just a LITTLE BIT....

The pasture? Well, I thought it was going to be galloping through lush flowers and butterfly farts or something like that. But no, you get this flat field and you have to try to "beat" the time spinning around the barrels. At first they're simple, but then they get harder and harder until you get impossibly timed patterns.

My favourite thing to do in the pasture is to go around the starting line and kick the barrels around.
Basically.... this game is for 5-year-olds. The worst horse game I've ever played. And I tend to be generous when reviewing games.

May 16, 2009

Saddle Club: In which Lisa nearly kicks it and Phil’s the only smart one

Saddle Club S.1.14 “Over the Bit”

This episode opens with Lisa attempting to study for a geology test before her riding lesson. Carole and Stevie are their usual “helpful” selves, asking her: what’s more important, school or horses? Lisa mentions that she also has a report due, a ballet recital, and a clarinet lesson this week. Red adds that she has a riding lesson that he’s already tacked Prancer up for, and tells her not to burn herself out.

Phil calls the girls over and leads them up to the hay loft, where they discover a strange boy hiding in the hay. Mystery!!

Strange kid acts all super cool and introduces himself as Liam, Red’s cousin. Liam says he’s there to talk to Max about buying a horse in a way that shows, very clearly, that he’s lying. He says his parents own a big ranch and have lots of big horses, and that he’s outgrown his stallion. The girls seem to buy it, but Phil is actually smart enough to see through it.

When Lisa mounts Prancer, she acts like her stomach is bothering her. She acts cross with the others, saying she has a lot on her mind.

Red finds Liam, who feeds him a story about his parents letting him come to visit. Red tells him to call his parents, to let them know he got there alright. He takes Liam into Max’s office, tells him it’s off limits and to not touch Max’s Super Special Trophy™, thus predictably setting up the shenanigans later. Liam fake calls his mom until Red leaves the area.

As Lisa brushes Prancer, she starts acting like her stomach hurts again. When Carole notices, she offers to help while Lisa lays down, but Lisa says she doesn’t have time because she has to get home to babysit her sister.

Liam tries chatting Stevie up, talking about Comanche. Liam says he had a horse just like him named Bob, but they had to sell him when they moved to China. (WTF?) Phil, being the only smart one, asks how many hands Bob was. Liam smart-assedly replies that horses don’t have hands, they’re called hooves. Stevie thinks he’s being funny. Phil knows better. He tells Stevie that he and Liam will turn Comanche out. When Stevie’s gone he tells Liam to turn Comanche out, which he tries to do with his tack still on. Fail.

When Phil tries to tell Stevie and Carole that Liam’s lying, they don’t believe him. Phil says he’ll prove it. He goes to find Liam, catching him playing with a riding crop (like a tool, I might add) in Max’s office. When he says something, Liam spooks and breaks Max’s trophy.

Predictably, Max shows up, and Liam manages to blame Phil for breaking the trophy. Max is irritated that they were in his office and tells Red to keep a closer eye on Liam. Red gets all offended and says Liam would never do it.

Carole’s worried about Lisa, and offers to exercise Prancer for her, but Lisa says it’s the only fun thing she gets to do that day. As she rides, it becomes clear that her stomach is hurting more.

Red gets a call from his aunt, and discovers that Liam lied about his parent letting him come, lied about calling his mom, and (when he finds Liam’s sunglasses in Max’s office) realizes he lied about Phil breaking the trophy.

Liam continues to lie to Carole, now talking about all the places he’s lived. Meanwhile, Stevie gives Phil hell for giving Liam such a hard time. Red shows up and gives Liam a verbal ass whipping and tells him to pack his bags, because his parents are coming to get him.

Riding back to the stables, Lisa is doubled over in the saddle from the pain. Oh noes…

Liam’s gonna show them all, he ops to run away before his parents get there. Moron…

Lisa falls off Prancer and can’t stand up. Drama!!

Liam’s genius plan of running away leads him to the woods, where he finds Lisa and Prancer. At first Liam is all like “I wanna help, but I have my own problems.” But I guess even he realized what an ass that made him, and he runs back to the stable.

Red’s mad about Liam, but Max tells him to take it easy on him, to remember what Red was like when he was fourteen. He also tells him that Liam is still his cousin.

Liam tries to tell Phil and Red about Lisa, but they refuse to listen. He runs back out to Lisa, and tells her that he’s got to get her on the horse. Prancer, being a Magikal Horse™, lays down without being told so Lisa can get on. This leads me to wonder why Liam has to be there at all. Whatever.

Liam manages to lead Prancer back to the stable and tells the girls to call an ambulance. Turns out Lisa had appendicitis, and she got to the hospital just in time. Carole and Stevie feel bad for not believing Liam the one time he was telling the truth. They all hug and make up… yay…

Liam apologizes to Red, and their BFFs again. Stevie and Carole apologize to Phil for not believing him, and everyone’s happy. Whoo…

The episode was blah, just blah. I feel if they had just made it a ‘Lisa is stressed and nearly dies’ episode it would have been better. Or if it was a ‘new guy shows up and breaks up Stevie and Phil’ episode, it would have been tolerable. But because you had both going on at the same time, it just came across as asinine. You know it’s a bad episode when you’re wishing Veronica would show up just to make something interesting happen. So I give it a… C-. Not the worst episode ever, just not really worth watching.

May 15, 2009

Wildfire: The Ritter Ramba!

2.13: Close Shave

The drama of this show jumped a few levels at the end of this season, frustrating me to no end because I loved season two. Right now, however, I would not be at all shocked if Mike suddenly procured an eye patch for himself and Dani started sitting in high backed chairs with only her gloved hand within view of the camera. Perhaps she would be doing something dastardly and making tea, or fondling a letter opener.

Well, anyway. You want to know what happens in this episode? This happens:

  • Tor is an idiot. He sleeps with Samantha and then is all shocked and angered when she informs him after the fact that she gave her vote to Dani. He's all but I traded sexual favors for nothing! and Samantha is not impressed. But by divine coincidence, which is happening a lot at the end of this season and also irritates me, some horse scratches and some other vote gets Wonder into the race. Tor is relieved. I still hate Tor, because he does something else that spurs on the asinine drama: leaves his damn watch in Samantha's room, where Dani finds it and uses it to her advantage.
  • Wonder has issues. All of a sudden. She gets over them.
  • Ashleigh decides to ride in Europe for a year or so, sparking emotional turmoil in Brad.
  • Clay comes home! And he schemes with Brad and Dani to get Townsend Acres back in their control, because Samantha has these beautiful, wonderful dreams of turning the farm into a mall. Everyone harasses Dani for caring too much about the farm, and Dani decides to take their advice and becomes even more freakishly cutthroat. She discovers who owns the watch (Tor, you idiot) and blackmails Samantha into a deal that lands her in a better position, saving the farm, blah blah blah. Then she rubs it in Clay's face. Sure, he can stay in the guest room, but his advice is no longer needed.
  • Tor tells Ashleigh he loves her, Ashleigh says absolutely nothing in response, and then he apparently crashes his plane before the Breeders' Cup. Wonder wins the race. Huzzah.
  • Brad then surprises Ashleigh by buying Wonder's still nameless foal as a gift for her, tells her he loves her, and then Tor's stupid possible death interrupts their awesomeness again. God, Tor, you're even inconvenient and annoying in death.
  • At one point Dani, Cindy, and Samantha all get together and discover they've all slept with Mike. Cindy, being by far the most irritating, says they've all done the "Ritter ramba!" And here I really wish she would have said, "Hey, we're all sluts!"
  • Dani calls Mike a coward. Oh, sing it, Dani. Sing it loud!
  • Clay's plan to secure Townsend Acres, by the way, is so stupid it makes me want to reach into the screen and smack him.

In total, we've got a season that started off really well. However, once the Ashleigh/Tor relationship got off the ground (sort of) and proceeded to smack right into the Samantha/Breeders' whatever scenario, the whole season crashed and burned. Plus, you can't base a cliffhanger on a character no one likes. Honestly, at the end of this episode, I could only ponder on how many other devices these people will dream up to interrupt a Brad/Ashleigh kiss. We know who the power couple is here, show. And I know what you're going to do in the third season. And it sickens me.

So. That's season two of Wildfire.

May 14, 2009

I could post a book review, but this just wound up being more entertaining.

Video Games: Round Two!

Championship Horse Trainer

I couldn't find a description for this through Google and I lost the box for it (the disc is in a plastic sleeve) oh well.

I got this for $3.99 or so at one of those "liquidation" stores. I'll say it was a pretty good deal. The graphics sometimes get buggered up, which occasionally lead to funny results -- for example, one time when the character was supposed to be galloping the horse in the little paddock, the horse was missing underneath her and she was just sliding along! Another time, I accidentally went through the fence surrounding the boarding farm and got stuck and had to reload.

First off, when you start a new game, you get to pick your character/game mode/difficulty/etc etc. Their eyes scare me!

You start out with about $9,500, and you can pick between two farms to buy your first horse from. After you pick out your first horse, you have three boarding farms -- however, only the first one is available until you win a few races.

When training or in races, it's a good idea to use your whip liberally (the right control key), which would seriously piss off the characters in Thoroughbred and have them whine to boycott the game's publisher.

(Note: this screen shot was taken from a game I had in progress already. So I'm on the fanciest boarding farm.)

However, if you whip your horse too much, he'll throw you. Strangely enough, he never throws you in the races. And after he tramples you, you just get right back up like nothing happened.

Another weird aspect that if you're not riding your horse and he's not resting or eating or anything, he's off loose....wearing a saddle and a bridle. Um, isn't that a bit dangerous?

To get good results in the races, you should train every day. Although the skills are incredibly slow to increase. Oh, and make sure your horse is happy. He can be an incredibly picky eater, and only like to rest in certain areas.

If you win enough races, the boarding farm manager may pay you money to breed to one of his mares. Keep an eye on the pregnancy in the barn -- and when the colt becomes available for sale, buy it! It's almost always better than the father.

When you're talking to various characters in the games (for tips and things), there's a bit of broken English. For example, the vet often says, "Oh! Look the time!" (or something along those lines) when she's leaving. And for some reason, when you're interacting with your horse, "Stroke" came out as "Stress." Which makes it sound not very nice.

It's also cute that when you interact with your horse and make it happy, he sometimes does a little dance:

May 12, 2009

Video games, anyone?

Let's Ride
Silver Buckle Stables

Mara here. I got an e-mail recently asking me what I thought of reviewing horse-related games, and I thought, "Great! There's no way I'm doing that!" So here we have our first excited volunteer. Everyone meet Aimee. She's our video game and whatnot guest reviewer until she feels like not doing it anymore. And with no further ado...

Okay, let's start -- I'm a bit of a gamer. I play Sid Meier's Civilization, SimCity, Transport Tycoon Deluxe, and Railroad Tycoon. Mostly strategy or simulation games. But I also like horse games. I don't have a huge collection yet, but I'll do a few reviews of what I do have. First off -- Let's Ride! Silver Buckle Stables. This is one of my first horse games, so I may be a bit biased, but whatever.

Description (from Amazon):
You're the owner of a new horse farm, Silver Buckle Stables! Choose your horse, pick out your riding outfits and even accessorize your horse with saddles, ribbons and more. The competitions are tough, but practice hard at the corral to perfect your riding technique and you'll make it to the Equestrian Center where you can show off your skills to win blue ribbons and buckles!

When you first start, you get to choose whether you're a girl or boy, then you get to customize your character.

Then you get to choose your horse. One great thing about this game is that there are plenty of ways to customize it, unlike some other games where there's only about three or four different coats.

The game is about Western riding and competitions -- and there's little irritation. When you're riding the horse, the character is holding the reins with both hands, as in English riding. There are lots of trails at first, but after a while it gets boring and makes you wish you could import your own maps. I will say now this game has pretty decent graphics for being a budget game.

This is a pretty easy game. No plot, and if you want, you can just ride around the trails all day. Grooming and feeding is simplistic. A bit too simplistic, but at least you're not spending 5 minutes grooming after every ride (as some games make you do.) In the barn, you can also pick up treats -- when you feed them to your horse, their levels in the health meter (lower left hand corner) go up. Good idea to always carry a few.

As you go through competitions and get "Silver Buckles", the horse's "hearts" increase. Which makes it "run" (huh?) faster and increases the effects of treats. As well, you get more customization options, and you get to pick out more horsies! Yay!

In total you can have four horses. Once you're done all the competitions and exploring the trails and stuff, there's not much left to do. And it does get repetitive after a while. And if you like a challenge... this isn't for you.

One last thought: It's fun to gallop through the streambeds trying to avoid the rocks!

May 8, 2009

Pine Hollow Tip: Stalking is perfectly acceptable if a boy doesn't want to talk to you.

The Trail Home
Pine Hollow #2

Are there some problems even your best friends can't help you solve?

Callie Forester is out of the hospital after the car accident that nearly claimed her life. Now Carole Hanson and Stevie Lake are determined to help her on the road to recovery. But Stevie is still consumed by guilt. After all, she was driving the car; could it be her fault that Callie almost died? Scott Forester, Callie's brother, certainly seems to blame her. Meanwhile Carole Hanson wants to know what secret Ben Marlowe is hiding. Why won't he let anyone get close to him? What's he afraid of? And if she does find out, will it ruin their new friendship? As for Lisa Atwood, she's enjoying life in California, working on a TV show. Will she decide that California is the place to be and abandon her friends and boyfriend? This summer could mark the end of everything, or a brand-new beginning.

You know what's sort of annoying? This book. You know why it's sort of annoying? It reads like it was written by a life coach, or maybe a motivational speaker, or maybe someone who spends their time frolicking through fields of daisies. It mainly caused me to feel unnerved, because whenever I run into dialogue that is this formal (and therefore totally ridiculous) I get a little twitchy. For instance, this is a short book. Only 166 pages. But people tend to fly off into giant, unexpectedly deep discussions that I don't care about, which also seem rather redundant because you're pretty sure you always know what their conclusions will be. It's kind of like a lengthy episode of Dawson's Creek, only with shorter words. And it took me forever to finish it.

Also, this book is mainly about Carole's inability to mind her own business. Ben Marlowe is hiding something! He's quiet and sullen and totally not interested in people! Well, okay, why don't you just give him space then, Carole? Why do you suddenly feel the need to get in his business and decide to, I don't know, stalk him and stake out his house?

So while Carole is invading people's space in more ways than one, Stevie is upset because she was driving the car that sort of almost killed Fez and Callie. She immediately quits her pizza delivery job and goes to work at "the laundry." Callie's brother hates her. This is mostly left undeveloped. Her brother is still a giant twerp who actively hopes Lisa is miserable in California so she will come back to Virginia and his incessant hovering. Don't worry though, kids. He only does it because he "loves" her! Really!

But mainly it's all about Carole stalking Ben. And Ben catches Carole stalking him, because she somehow discovers his address and goes there to discover his giant secret. He is not...whatever it is she thought he was. He is poor. He lives on a street with rusted cars and not absolutely perfect lawns and dogs leashed to trees with frayed rope. You guys! Carole is attracted to the kid living on the wrong side of the tracks. It would be so adorable if she hadn't staked out his house and accidentally gotten caught because she actually decided to park right in front of his house. Oh, Carole. You dope.

And then Fez dies and Ben tells Carole all that she wanted to know and Carole has the nerve to tell herself that she kind of suspected what was up with Ben. Carole, shut up. You totally didn't, otherwise you wouldn't have been having a minor conniption fit over every tiny thing he wasn't telling you which leads to what? He's poor and wants to go to college? How is this even minorly interesting, CAROLE?

Oh, and Callie did therapeutic riding or something and PC is an equine angel. And Lisa is probably having the time of her life in California, but she keeps downplaying it because she's probably afraid of her boyfriend. I would be.

And then everyone had a deep conversation and decided that life was hard. The end.

  • That meant untacking, grooming, watering, and feeding the sweet horse that had just exerted so much effort for their friend. Oh my God, is this how this book is going to be on every single page? *thumbs through book* YES. YES IT IS.
  • "As if Max, or anyone here, could possibly ignore the needs of any horse!" And then Stevie picked up her skirts and sashayed back to the estate to resume her embroidery!
  • Ben would never, ever, under any circumstances, do anything that would hurt a horse. That's great, person who wrote this. I kind of got it now! The Saddle Club characters aren't, like, animal abusers. I think it's very clear. You can stop being annoyingly repetitive now that you have gotten to page 28.
  • Apparently helping Ben is going to be Carole's own personal Saddle Club project. What the hell does that mean? Carole, shut up about the stupid club apparently no one cares about anymore and do your damn job.
  • Oh, good. I'm glad to know Fez isn't in "constant pain." He's just "in pain a lot of the time."
  • Pine Hollow keeps the barn key in its "more or less secret hiding place under the mat outside the office door." Where do these people live? Utopia?
  • Why do I get the feeling that this author should be editing Martha Stewart Living? Oh, it's because she uses words like piquant and tableau. PIQUANT and TABLEAU.
  • Wow, Emily is a little go getter: Callie is going to do all the work and she's going to get better, and that'll make me look brilliant. With this author, I cannot tell at all if she is kidding.
  • You think of me as someone who helps around the stable, someone you can laugh with or maybe rely on or borrow money from sometimes. Look, look! Friendship defined!
  • Do we really need to read about Carole opening junk mail? What is pertinent about this?
  • Oh hell. If Lisa is coding the fact that she's spending lots of time with Skye Ransom in a post card she's sending to the barn, she needs to break up with her boyfriend.
  • "She's all yours, for now." Alex's creepy possessiveness rears its ugly head. Isn't it so fabulously attractive, ladies?
  • Carole watched Ben work, gentle and kind. The veins stood out on his strong hands... This, kids, is why The Trail Home is a YA book. Well, this and the Dawson's Creek conversations.

May 5, 2009

Wildfire: This show depends far too much on Mike's stupidity.

2.12: For Love or Money

I didn't think it was possible for the "Breeders' Invitational" drama to become more convoluted, yet it somehow does. Also, I'm really feeling some remorse with Chad...not because I care about him, of course. I just feel that I should have renamed this character Tor. Oh, then my repackaging of this show as a Thoroughbred adaptation would be perfect! Well, clearly it's not like I can't proclaim a do over and start calling him Tor, which I will now do. I mean, this is my retelling, and he is now Tor. Kerry = Chad = Tor. We all good? Okay! Moving forward...

I watched this days and days ago, so I'll just hit the main points of this episode:

1. There is yet more confusion over who is going to get Samantha's vote for the Breeders' Invitational. Eventually, Ashleigh decides that the most fair thing for Samantha to do is pick the winner of a match race between Wonder and Her Majesty. Samantha, for whatever reason, thinks this is fantastic.

2. However, because picking the winner of a match race would be far too simple for this show, Wonder (Belladonna) goes into labor, and not surprisingly no one is around to help deliver this foal. (I never understood why there are tons of extras in the background of this show doing totally random things like longing horses in courtyards and such only to disappear when they're actually forever confuses me.) Ashleigh is, literally, the only one left at the stable to help out and the nearest vet is two hours away helping Jean get over Charlie's refusal to talk to her (or something). Jean tells her to call Mike, because surely he is responsible! What does Mike do? He looks at his ringing phone, says, "Let me turn this off." and turns it off. *facepalm* This is expected, Mike. Why do you have to suck so much? So Ashleigh is stuck at Whitebrook, the match race has to be stalled because not only are there no hands to help with the mare, there are no hands to drive Wonder to the track.

3. Brad and Dani have to look after the horses at Townsend Acres by themselves, and the backbreaking work motivates Brad to sell his percentage of the farm. He sells it to Samantha, who basically says, "Yeah, sure. Whatever." to Dani's proposal. Brad receives a huge chunk of cash, proclaims he hasn't loved horses since he was like eight, and then experiences a painful epiphany when Ashleigh calls him and panics about Wonder. Brad, because he is so heartbreakingly awesome, rushes to Ashleigh's side and helps with the birth, discovers his love for horses still exists, and is only verbally abused by Dani when he decides to tell her this revelation.

4. Dani manipulates Samantha into believing that Ashleigh and Wonder simply aren't showing up for the race, and I mainly blame Mike for all of this. Stop being stupid, Mike! At the end of the episode, Dani realizes that Samantha is in a relationship with Mike, and Mike scurries after Samantha like the boy toy he really, really is.

5. Tor will do "anything" for Ashleigh, and that apparently means he is also willing to stoop to granting sexual favors because he calls Ashleigh from a bed, tells her Samantha will give Wonder her vote, and in the bed next to him is Samantha, peacefully sleeping. Clearly this goes bad quickly, because only an idiot would think that this plan would somehow work. Honestly, Tor, please crash your plane now so you can stop annoying me.

Next up is the Breeders' Invitational, blackmail, and emotional explosions from everyone!