Friday, November 18, 2011

Pop Culture Roundup

I read The Magician King by Lev Grossman, the sequel to his excellent and engrossing The Magicians, which I read last year. We pick up pretty much right where we left off, with Quentin and his three friends kings and queens of the magical Narnia-ish world of Fillory. Quentin is getting bored: he has incredible powers in both the magical and royal sense, and life is very easy for him. Longing for a challenge, he eventually sets off in search of the Seven Keys, the incredible importance of which he slowly discovers even if initially he'd just wanted a quest. We also learn about Julia's background, which was probably the more fascinating part of the book for me. The characters face the same questions as in the first book concerning identity and purpose, and there's even a certain desperation on Quentin's part in answering them. I don't know that I'd call this book as good as the last, but it's still up there. The ending is unsatisfying, but it's obviously setting up the reader for the eventual third book of the trilogy.

I watched The Adjustment Bureau this week, starring Matt Damon as David, a former New York Congressman who discovers a mysterious group that intervenes in his and other people's lives in order to "keep them on plan." After his discovery, he's encouraged to forget what he's seen, which of course he finds impossible to do. As he attempts to change their plans for him, there is discussion about free will, human fallibility, and black-and-white vs. emotion. One of the Bureau members argues that every time in history that humans have been left to make their own decisions, it has led to times and events such as the Dark Ages, World War I, and the Holocaust. So, he says, "you don't have free will, just the appearance of free will." Decisions and destinies are controlled by an off-screen figure only known as "The Chairman," who is eventually revealed to be willing even to react and change according to human choice. The film is great fodder for theological discussion.

Coffeeson has become very interested in the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba, where DJ Lance Rock and his wacky bunch of puppet characters learn about things like space, robots, making new friends, healthy food, and all the other usual sorts of things that kid shows usually teach about. The show is very musical in nature, with all sorts of guest artists, songs, and dances. And the artists they choose aren't the usual ones you'd expect: The Aquabats (lead singer Christian Jacobs is co-creator), The Shins, and the Aggrolites. There's an entire episode where Jack Black guest-stars and does wacky Jack Black things. The show makes use of old school video game visuals and dance remixes of the songs they sing through the episode. I was skeptical at first, but after a while the show really won me over.

Here are two cats talking while playing pattycake: