Thursday, March 17, 2016

There’s Something Magical About the TV Show The Magician

A TV Review of The Magician.

The Story: In a dystopian-tinged future, a world-famous magician amazes the world with his tricks. Unknown to most people, he and his assistant work with a policeman to battle the flamboyant villains that populate their corrupt city. His life is complicated even further due to his love for the daughter of one of the city’s most notorious criminals.

My Thoughts: I saw The Magician on TV when I was a child. Not long after airing, it seemed to be forgotten by most people, but I always remembered it as a unique and unusually well-done animated show. I got a chance to watch it again recently, and I was impressed. It’s a bit like what would happen if Batman was a famous magician instead of a billionaire with cool equipment. The concept is surprisingly entertaining, particularly since a variety of colorful villains appear and the characterizations are much deeper than normal for a kid’s show.

The Magician does have some notable flaws. The hero’s powers are not explained and are used inconsistently, which some people might find distracting. Characters occasionally act in ways that fit the story instead of their personality. In rare cases the animation quality is lower than usual. To me, the show being so amazingly good overall made it easy to overlook the flaws and enjoy it. The Magician is definitely one of the best children’s animated shows ever made, and worth watching for adults who like animation.

Content Overview: Despite being a children’s show, there’s occasional foul language. And, of course, there’s mild violence.

Friday, March 11, 2016

7 Great Rock Songs That Are 7 Minutes or Longer

I like rock songs in general, no matter the length. Long songs, however, tend to get overlooked by many people due to not being as radio-friendly as short songs. To help fix that, I made a list of my top 7 favorite rock songs that are 7 minutes or longer.

#1 “I AM” by Theocracy

Theocracy has a lot of great songs that are over 7 minutes long, but this is my favorite.

#2 “Prodigal Son Suite” by Keith Green

In addition to being one of the best long rock songs ever composed, this is also one of the greatest story songs ever written.

#3 “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

This unforgettable epic is the longest song to ever enter the top ten on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

#4 “Laying the Demon to Rest” by Theocracy

Yes, more Theocracy. They can’t help but dominate a list of the best long rock songs, since epic-length masterpieces are their specialty.

#5 “High Hopes” by Pink Floyd

In the tradition of a previous classic, “Comfortably Numb,” Pink Floyd delivers another haunting masterpiece with “High Hopes.”

#6 “The Gift of Music” by Theocracy

This is the last song by Theocracy on the list. I promise. If, however, I’d made a “10 great rock songs over 7 minutes” list, Theocracy would have probably provided the other three songs.

#7 “Ground Zero” by Kerry Livgren

Picking up where he left off with the rock band Kansas, Kerry Livgren created another quirky symphonic classic with this song.

What are your favorite rock songs that are over 7 minutes long?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Here’s a Dystopian Series for Readers Who Usually Don’t Like Dystopian Novels

A book review of the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

The Story: In a future where a ruthless government rules and it is illegal to have more than two children, one third child, a boy, lives a secret life on his family’s farm. When the government decides to build a new neighborhood next to the farm, he is forced to stay hidden in house. Then, one day, the sight of another third child draws him out of the house and into a rebellion that seeks to overthrow the government and legalize third children.

My Thoughts: I had avoided this series for awhile due to it appearing to be a generic, shallow dystopian series for young readers, but the first book, Among the Hidden, quickly proved me wrong. The plot is simple but effective, and the characters, setting, and moral questions it raises are all complex and fascinating.

The second book, Among the Impostors, is just as good as the first. When the third book, Among the Betrayed, switched to focusing entirely on a different protagonist, I worried that the series would lose its way, but as it turned out, the only letdown about the book is that the plot is weaker than the first two, a flaw which never surfaces again in the next four books.

Books four through six, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, and Among the Enemy, sometimes switch protagonists for a whole book again, and while this occasionally gets annoying due to wanting to know what other main characters are doing, the books in and of themselves are all as good as the first two in the series.

The last book, Among the Free, focuses once more on the protagonist who started the series and was featured in the most books. The ending is inspiring and filled with hope, making the journey through the dark dystopian world fully worth it. Some of the other main characters are unfortunately neglected, but aside from that, it’s a good ending to the series.

Dystopian novels can be perfect for exploring hard questions, and the Shadow Children series refreshingly examines them in a way that is respectful of faith and affirming of strong moral values, while not giving easy answers. In some cases, it doesn’t give an answer at all, simply asking readers to ponder it for themselves. Those who want thought-provoking dystopian novels that aren’t as dreary as many of their brethren will find much to like here.

Content Overview: The intensity of the dystopian setting might be too much for some younger readers, but it’s much milder than the Hunger Games trilogy, with not much violence and only one instance of profanity.