Stranger Things and Even Stranger Tees

I didn't expect to suddenly be writing about Stranger Things. Six days ago, I hardly knew it existed. I skipped it for about a month. I didn't notice it trending on Netflix. Probably because I was watching other series and not wanting another thing to put on my long, long list of series to watch but probably will never get to unless I take a lot of time off work or all my regular shows vanish.

I did hear about Stranger Things in passing, seeing a few tweets here and there. But last Friday I saw the first t-shirt about it. Later that same day, I saw a tweet here and there about it. And then on Monday David Hewlett, who I had followed just days before when he popped up in the quite enjoyable Killjoys, and who played my favorite character on Stargate: Atlantis, got me excited about it.

And then not long after the following tweet, I found myself with an unexpected extra hour in my day.

I knew not one thing about it, except that it was stranger and it was things and it was "spectacular." I don't think I even read the description, just the title, "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers." I soon figured out that it was definitely a show for me. With the opening in some facility with a researcher running for his life, and not making it, chased down by something that sounded like a MUTO from Godzilla coupled with the feel of a true evil; a little boy who comes across the same creature from the shadows, one without a face, and that disappears as suddenly as it appears; and a little girl with a shaved head on the run from people who will kill anyone to get to her, I was immediately drawn in.

It's a very emotional story, rife with tension and very well-acted. You don't often get a chance to say that with a work that centers on children, but Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas all deliver great performances and feel like a real group of friends. Unfortunately, Noah Schnapp as Will, having been taken, doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he still makes an impact. I particularly love Dustin, the most clear-headed of the group and such an adorable kid, and Millie Bobby Brown as Elle couldn't be a better combination of power and vulnerability.

Then there's Winona Ryder's pitch-perfect performance as Joyce Byers, the devastated mother who refuses to give up on her son. To everyone around her, she seems to have tipped over into madness. But Chief Jim Hopper, played by David Harbour with a weary sadness and renewed purpose, will do anything to find Will, because he knows what it feels like to lose a child.

I can't really say too much more, because I don't want to give away anything. All I can really say is don't walk on over to this show...

If I ever get the chance today (the big TV has been monopolized for the last six hours), I'll be watching the final episode. Going by what I've seen so far, I'm sure it will be intriguing, nightmarish and satisfying. I'm sure I will be getting at least one t-shirt. Here are four of the best since I started noticing them last week. There's another at Qwertee, Darkness & Demogorgons, that I'll post if it ever comes back to TeeFury or gets to RedBubble. Can't wait to put these in the gallery I've been working on and create a new Stranger Things category.

These t-shirts are available at TeeFury by clicking on the images. All of the Stranger Things tees can be found via this TeeFury link.

Paladin Side and Dark Side Voltron T-Shirts

I've been neglecting tees for a while here. Life is just too busy. Every minute I'm not sleeping, I'm working. I work while I eat. I work while I'm watching TV. I work on other work while I work my regular job. I come up with ideas, write to-do lists, and edit posts while I play games. And if I think about it, I'd probably discover that I even work while I'm sleeping; my dreams and nightmares have been just as busy.

But the second I saw it, I had to take the time out to bring you this fantastic Voltron shirt from TeeFury, Paladin Side of Altea. And then I noticed a very similar Ript Apparel shirt from yesterday, The Dark Side of Planet Arus, also using the Voltron/Dark Side of the Moon mashup concept. They are both great, but I give the edge to Paladin Side of Altea for using the V for Voltron instead of a Triangle. And while there's some lovely detail on the lions of Dark Side, I like the simple colored silhouettes of Paladin Side.

I don't think I've had more than one Voltron shirt here. That's not to say that there aren't other worthy V tees here, or that I haven't thought about having my own giant, metal lions every day of my life since I was 9. It just hasn't happened. I'm working on a t-shirt gallery, though, and you can bet that I will have a section for Voltron large enough to represent my nostalgic love for the old and adoration for the new, hilarious version made by people who obviously had as much affection as I did.

There's a sale today on Paladin Side for $9. Tomorrow the permanent price jumps up to $20. Dark Side is $16 today and then it won't be available again. RiptApparel exclusives hardly ever come around again.

Paladin Side of Altea

Price: $9 today, then $20
Sizes: Up to 3XL
Colors: Black
Artist: Prime Premne
Store: TeeFury
Sale Expires: 7/31/16

The Dark Side of Planet Arus

Price: $16
Sizes: Up to 3XL
Colors: Charcoal or Dark Chocolate
Artist: Obvian
Store: RiptApparel (EXCLUSIVE)
Sale Expires: 7/31/16

Also available as hoodies, coasters, posters and more.

Mumford & Sons: Johannesburg

You search all your life
Stealing all you find.
You stare at your own hands
Not the hands they entwine.

~ Ngamila by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, and The Very Best

I have loved Mumford & Sons since 2010, when Entertainment Weekly happened to mention them. I had been starving for new music and decided it couldn't hurt to take a few minutes to listen to one song. That song was "Little Lion Man" and pretty soon after that I bought the CD. Every release I have been excited to find out what they've come up with next, moving from heavily folk influenced to more rock and now to a collaboration with African musicians. It's been quite a progression, one that never stagnates.

I have barely mentioned Mumford & Sons' music before. I just never found the time. I have something written about "Wilder Mind" somewhere in my drafts. A big F.U. to all those that hated their new direction and thought the band should just mindlessly stick to what they've done in the past and not experiment out of their comfort zone. I'm so glad they did, because "Wilder Mind" is one of my all-time favorite albums with a host of incredible songs with unforgettable lyrics. It's a pity I didn't get to that review. In fact, it seems I put music recommendations on the back burner all the time. Well, that's not going to happen with "Johannesburg." I'm supposed to be working, but I can't get it out of my head. Doesn't help that I'm listening to it right now over and over.

"Johannesburg" may be just an EP, but that's no reason to skip it, if that's what you were thinking of doing. More bands should release songs between their full albums, which can take so long to create. I thought when they released the first song, "There Will Be Time," and then the second, "Wona," that the rest of this tiny album couldn't possibly live up to those two beauties with lyrics like these.

In the cold light I live to love and adore you.
It's all that I am. It's all that I have.

~ There Will Be Time by Mumford & Sons and Baaba Maal

You don't want to suffer for your art.
You don't want to vivisect your heart.

~ Wona by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg

But I was wrong.

"Fool You've Landed" and "Si Tu Veux" are also great songs, but "Ngamila" is the one I've paid particular attention to. Much of it I can't understand, sung in three different languages as it (and the whole album) is. There are no translations up as of yet, not even the original words so I can go find a dictionary. That doesn't matter so much, though, because the English parts sung by Marcus and the music itself set quite a beautiful tone. Mumford & Sons has always has some gorgeous lyrics, and this song is no exception.

You have all you need
When you're held by me.
Don't pine for what's not
And whatever will be.

~ Ngamila by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, and The Very Best

If you're hesitant about buying this album, you don't have to worry about lyrics in a language you don't speak, because they become part of the melody. You can enjoy them without having to know exacty what they mean. And someone will eventually get those translations up. Those languages are Chichewa and Pulaar, according to sites that have the English lyrics.

What a fantastic result came out of this collaboration with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg. I always appreciate my favorite bands trying something new. Since I was young, and listened to Rhythm of the Pride Lands (music inspired by The Lion King) probably a hundred thousand times, I have adored languages and music from all over the world. An album like Johannesburg may do that for others and that's a wonderful thing.

Rest in Peace, Anton Yelchin

When I first saw Anton Yelchin in Hearts in Atlantis, an adaption of a Stephen King collection, I was impressed. He was only 12 when he starred in it alongside Anthony Hopkins. With that first movie, I knew I would look forward to his work for decades. I'm so very sorry to say that that time was cut unfairly short. He was the best part of Huff, fantastic in Charlie Bartlett, a delight in the rebooted Star Trek. Now, like Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight, I will be watching Star Trek Beyond with tears welling up whenever Anton is on the screen.

Though I never knew him, this is another in just a handful or two of celebrity losses that really knocked the wind out of me. I am so sorry for his family and friends. It is quite painful to lose someone, even more so when it's so sudden, unexpected, and on a day that's supposed to be a celebration. Father's Day (and Mother's Day and every day) will forever be linked with tremendous heartache for both of his parents. I leave you now with a few tweets in memoriam from Anton's Star Trek family.

The typo in here made it hurt more, because no one cares about a typo at a time like this, and I could imagine Karl trying to get all of that out through blurry, tear-filled eyes.

While everyone had beautiful words, Simon Pegg really got to me, because it was just this picture.

There are many more messages you can read at Hollywood Reporter from people who worked with Anton, people who were his friends, and people who admired him.

T-Shirts: Another Marvel-ous Day

We've got a collection of marvelous Marvel tees today, all in black. I went to see Captain America: Civil War, but I never had the chance to write about it. Wish I could have seen it more than once, but that hardly ever happens. Just too busy. Anyway, the movie was spectacular. So much action, so much fun, so much much beating up Tony. Cap (and everyone else) took a lot, too, but that twist in the end and Tony's rage, that was incredible. I knew from the first trailer that it would break me. It makes me very happy that it made over $1 billion at the box office. They deserve it for bringing us such entertainment.

And now some talented artists bring us t-shirts to proudly announce our love for these wonderful characters wherever we go.

Quantum Studies

Finally saw Ant-Man again last weekend, for the first time since it was in theaters. It think it was funnier than I remembered, and I remember laughing my butt nearly clean off. Paul Rudd was also hilarious in Civil War, as he always is, and had such charm and chemistry with everyone.

The Panther King

Hello, Black Panther. What a dangerous kitty you are. And what a fantastic introduction. Can't wait to find out more about you and see your first solo movie.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I have a special place for Tony Stark...and RDJ. They are what got me into the Marvel Universe. I never had comic books as a kid and was only vaguely aware of Iron Man. I had seen and loved the X-Men animated series, I knew who Spider-Man was, but that was about it. Then I saw the first trailer and I was hooked. Then there was the moment Tony opened the gift from Pepper: his original arc reactor engraved with "Proof that Tony Stark has a heart." It was one of the highlights of Iron Man's many emotional moments and what definitely kept me coming back for more.

It was a great summer back in 2008. Iron Man and The Dark Knight reminded the movie business that if you respect both the genre and the audience by bringing in talent across-the-board, then you can have truly great movies and viable franchises. It's been more hit than miss since.

I remember reading a comment on Twitter wondering why superheroes have to fight each other. They're the good guys, so I guess some who see this genre of storytelling as less than others expect them to always be faultless and upstanding and fight only clear-cut villains. First of all, superheroes always go up against villains, so this was a fun change. But more seriously, thinking about real people and relationships, no one gets along all the time. People have their own ideas, ideals, fears and hang-ups. Sometimes those motivations create a clash on important issues, and people who were once close find themselves on opposite sides. The righteous can become the villainous, depending on your perspective.

Civil War drew the lines beautifully and showed the tragedy of friends torn apart by the choice they had to make between being controlled, ineffectual and possibly imprisoned when the government feels like it, and humanity's fear of superhumans going unchecked. If the movie did it's job (and you aren't one to tune out valid arguments because they're contrary to your favorite hero's opinion), you should have sided with both camps and neither, and just hoped the former friends could realize that there wasn't one solution, and that they needed to stop before someone did something they couldn't ever take back.

And then there was the incredible humor in that scene where everyone fought. I did not expect the darkness of this movie to turn so suddenly to humor. I need more Spider-Man/Ant-Man scenes in the future, because they are both so funny. It's always good to add a light heart to the heavy drama. It makes things more relatable and loss more devastating, which was made quite evident when Coulson temporarily died in The Avengers.

Before I forget, there's one more shirt. Unfortunately, it's not available right now.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Since I happen to be writing this in my Steve 'N' Stark Civil War tee, I have to include it. There have been a number of shirts worthy of buying, but I couldn't choose sides with Team Cap over Team Stark or vice versa. When this one came up at Qwertee, I knew I needed it, and I just found out it happens to be by the same guy who designed Vitruvian Stark, Simon Butler. Hopefully, one day he'll put this one up in his RedBubble store.