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.

T-Shirt: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Today's daily tee from TeeFury is the N.S.E.A. Protector from Galaxy Quest. A beautiful ship from a non-stop hilarious movie that's one of my all-time favorites. That's why I had to take some time out of the beginning of the work day to talk about it. Many shirts I have come across in the past number of months have been great, but I haven't had the time to do more than slap quick links into tweets. Many more haven't been to my liking, either because they weren't the best designs, I'd seen them before or too many had been similar, or they were pop culture icons that I just don't care about.

But I sure do care about this particular one. I can't ignore "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," and I cannot pass it up, especially not for just $11. Though I have probably what is now a literal ton of shirts, I don't have a Galaxy Quest tee and that just feels wrong.

You know what else feels wrong? I never got to finish writing my Alan Rickman tribute. :( One day, hopefully.

The Blacklist: Cape May ~ The Depths of Grief

Cape May. I never imagined just the name of a place could have such an affect on me. Though The Blacklist has had much to recommend it, "Cape May" was a standout in its depiction of grief, the way it flowed from beginning to end with the eerie feeling that something wasn't right, something was missing, like a half-remembered dream.

SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU ARE CAUGHT UP WITH "CAPE MAY." I put the warning here rather than at the beginning because it messes with the summary.

Nothing was right, of course, and the missing piece, it could be said, was Red; he hadn't been there to save Katarina from herself and he failed to save her daughter. In a profound grief triggered by Liz's death, Red fled to probably the last place that holds significance for him. Not knowing what to do and too hurt to do anything else, Red sat on the beach of Cape May to stare out at the hypnotizing vastness that guides broken souls through all their "what ifs?" Before long, his distraught mind decided for him.

What a superb episode. I didn't know James Spader could give more of his heart and soul than he already has throughout these past three seasons...

Barely having a chance to get lost in his thoughts, Red saw someone in trouble, a woman he had earlier seen fleeing a diner, pursued by a man in a flannel shirt with a scowl on this face. She was about to let the ocean take her. Having lost someone in such a way, Red didn't hesitate to act.

I had no clue who this woman was right then. I just thought it was nice for Red at his lowest to have someone to save. The first indication that something was off—those missing pieces—was the way this scene was edited. The woman started walking toward the ocean and Red ran after her, yelling for her to stop. She dove into the waves and he followed. Then suddenly, a little oddly, it cut to Red pulling her out of the water.

He helped her inside the beachfront inn, set her down by the fireplace, and went to get a blanket. He halted for a beat when the inn hostess appeared behind him and asked if he needed help. But this was the off season and no one else was there. He shrugged it off, found a blanket, started a fire, and layed down next to the suicidal woman. I assumed it was only for body heat and to comfort her, but then it seemed more intimate than that, his face showing more than the natural concern for another human being, his words too easily getting a confession out of her.

It's not that he died. It's not even the way he died. It's in the things I said to him just before he died.

When they had dinner, there was a wide shot of the table with two place settings where the woman was completely obscured by a post, as if she wasn't there at all and I got a sinking feeling. The next angle showed both of them and I was reassured, but then the unease about her returned with the way they seemed to have an unspoken connection and how she brought out of Red the terrible things that have happened, the choices he made.

I was arrogant. I presumed that there was an order to things, that there was - that if I nourished and protected and taught the child, she would and happy.

Then the attack came from the man in the diner. The woman whispered a warning to Red, and it sounded like she was right next to him, but she wasn't there. I was sure then of what I had begun to suspect. They talked in the living room afterwards, the woman at the piano and Red on the couch baring his soul again, the present in parallel with his past.

The Blacklist Tracklist

There was a woman I loved. She was my heart. Then she died. She left behind a little girl: one last, precious piece of herself. I would give anything to be a part of that child's life, but a man made it clear I would never see her, hold her, watch her grow. And I knew in that moment, I would never be a part of that beautiful little girl's life...

This sad scene finished with a phone call, and they got ready for an onslaught. They won, but the people who were after the woman weren't going to give up. She had no options left, and Red did his best to talk her out of what he knew was coming by relating to her his witnessing of "a perfect circle of death."

That's every suicide. Every single one. An act of terror perpetrated against everyone who's ever known you, everyone who's ever loved you. The people closest to you, the ones who cherish you, are the ones who suffer the most pain, the most damage. Why would you do that? Why would you do that to people who love you?

A beautifully heart-felt plea to the woman he had loved. And her response is something he should have told Liz before it was too late. But don't we all think we have more time?

That little girl, the one you told me about, the one whose father you spared, what would you do if you knew, knew that as long as you drew breath, as long as you continued to exist her life would be in danger, she would be hunted, and she would be killed? What would you do?

Every one of their exchanges had felt like more than two strangers just getting to know each other; it's like they already did, but they were in a sort of purgatory where their memories of each other had vanished. Through all of this, until the end, Red didn't realize who he had saved, until after the woman inevitably walked into the water again, as she always would. Red's hallucination rewrote Katarina's last day as if he had been there with her, what he would have done to keep her safe. Everyone wishes they could change the past, but it is a deep and abiding sorrow, an utterly shattered heart, to be manifesting someone long-gone and to think she's actually there.

Now I wonder if Katarina really told him why she took her own life or if he just intuited it. Did she leave a note? (I don't remember if there was ever a hint of a note before.) Had he really been there in the past to help protect her from a couple of thugs and then did he leave when she asked him to? Is that why he said "I can't" and stayed with her, because this time things would be different? All I know for sure is she died and left behind little Masha. The rest could have been a scenario Red made up in this waking nightmare.

[EDIT I was in such a rush that there was a question I forgot to ask, until the latest episode reminded me of it. Why didn't Red recognize Katarina? At first I thought it was just the way his mind was working through the grief, like a dream where the people you know have different faces. That has happened to me a few times before. So, could it be that Katarina didn't really look like the woman in "Cape May"? Could it be that Red saw a flesh and blood woman in that diner, rather than a ghost his heart could never let go, and then built a scenario around her where she stood in for Katarina?]

What a superb episode. I didn't know James Spader could give more of his heart and soul than he already has throughout these past three seasons, but "Cape May" surpassed even "Madeline Pratt." That was the episode where Red recounted finding his daughter in a pool of her own blood, his eyes closed, transported back to that moment as if it had just happened, the wound never having healed.

And tonight, in "The Artax Network," the rest of the cast gets their chance to bring everything they have to the funeral episode. I'm really looking forward specifically to seeing how this affects Aram. Amir Arison was perfect in "The Director" when Aram saved Liz. That entire scene where he was trying to reassure Liz, pleaded for her life, performed CPR on her, and then threatened the Director was the highlight of Arison's work on the show.

I can't wait to see what the final episodes have in store, but I'm not even finished with this post. I sacrificed almost my entire work day for this, but I have to get to it or I will be scrambling to catch up on the weekend. So, I guess there will be a Part 3 of this post, which I will have to link to here.