It’s been a busy week for me in terms of popular culture. With the end of season four of Game of Thrones (don’t forget to read my review from last week) I’ve had to find other ways to keep myself entertained. Thankfully there has been plenty over the past week to keep me busy!
The World Cup has been in full swing, so that’s many evenings sorted. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest football fan in the world. I really only watch during the World Cup, actually. Which didn’t stop me from joining a pool betting on the winner. Unfortunately, I drew Spain, so was pretty much out in the first few days when they were demolished by the Netherlands. That was a game I had mixed feelings about. Though I drew Spain in my pool, I was actually rooting for the Netherlands, as that was the first country where I lived abroad. That experience was over ten years ago now (wow, I suddenly feel old!) but I have fond memories of the time. I even went on holiday last year to visit old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since living there. The point, of course, is that I’m happy the Netherlands won the match, though it did put me out a pound for the pool (big spenders, this pool group). Of course, now with England out of the tournament I’m even more inclined to root for the Netherlands. I do have a lot of friends and family in the US, so have some affinity for them, but I don’t expect them to get very far. Did anyone watch that US-Portugal game a few nights ago? They had one job during stoppage time, ONE JOB — don’t let Portugal score! Good job, guys, you may have cost yourselves a chance to advance during that last-second slip.
In other sporting news, Wimbledon started this week. There have been a few upsets already, as is typical, but nothing too major yet. I don’t get much chance to listen/watch, actually, as I spend most days working on my PhD or related things (job applications, book reviews, etc.) But I do read the recaps and keep up to date with the live scores. On the men’s side I’m rooting, as always, for Roger Federer. He may be on the down end of his career and not have the fear factor he had at his peak, but still can play some brilliant tennis. I don’t expect him to win another Grand Slam, though, what with the level of competition over the past few years. Novak Djokovic has been consistent at most of the majors recently, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he wins Wimbledon again. The same goes for Rafael Nadal. I don’t particularly like Nadal’s style of play and almost always root against him, but he definitely is a fantastic player whom you can never count out until he’s actually lost. And he’s already shown that he’s not merely a clay court specialist, having completed the career Grand Slam, though he will always be remembered for his phenomenal success at Roland Garros. How is losing only one match ever there possible?! I do wonder if Andy Murray will be able to repeat last year’s triumph. I doubt it as he hasn’t been playing particularly well recently. On the women’s side, honestly I don’t care who wins as long as it’s not one of the Williams sisters. I’ve never liked either of them so will always root against them. I’m not supporting anyone in particular, though, as it’s hard to get attached to any player because there’s been so many different Major winners over the past few years. The women’s tournament is always wide open, so I just sit and enjoy watching.
When not watching the wonderful summer sports, I managed to finally see a movie in the theatre, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Overall I’ve had mixed feelings about the X-Men series. I really enjoyed the first two films, didn’t like the third one at all, didn’t care to see any of the Wolverine films, and thought First Class was decent but not great. This new film reunited the original cast with Bryan Singer — who directed the first two films — so I thought it had a good chance of being good. And I did quite enjoy it. Like with any comic book movie there were major plot holes and sometimes an over-reliance on special effects, but overall it was rather enjoyable. It had the right mix of action, humour, adventure and characterisation. I liked the contrast between how James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart played Professor Xavier; one being a surly punk, the other a reserved teacher. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Quicksilver, showing how his powers seem to other people. He’s basically a Marvel version of the Flash with the ability to move at almost supersonic speeds, so the super power isn’t that unknown in the comic book world, but it was fun to see on-screen. Still, despite how much Wolverine was supposed to be the key to the film (and previews for it), Magneto and Mystique were the main players. I’ve always found Magneto’s relationship with the world — and particularly Charles Xavier — to be fascinating. Plus, I love his mutant power. My biggest problem with the film, as it is with most time travel films, is that it basically reset the entire series. Because Wolverine changed the past all that happened after it didn’t actually happen. In some senses it seems a bit of a cop-out to effectively say the previous films are now null and void. Ignoring that, however, the film was quite well done.
Finally, I’ve also been listening to a lot of music. I’m progressing right along in my musical playlist (I’m now on K), and listening to new music via NPR’s ‘First Listen’ programme. This week I’ve been enjoying Old Crow Medicine Show’s new album, Remedy. Their blend of bluegrass, folk and country music has inspired many newer bands of a similar style (especially some of my current favourites like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons). This new album is probably their best since 2006’s Big Iron World. It starts off strong with a few high energy songs, includes some slower ballads and brilliantly combines country and rock. It’s a great album and I only wish they would tour the UK so I’d have a chance to see them.
In other music news, Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco, will be releasing a ‘solo’ album called Sukierae in September that I am really looking forward to hearing (you can stream ‘I’ll Sing It’ from the new album already). His son, Spencer, plays drums on the album and they will playing at least one show in the UK in the autumn that I will hopefully be able to attend.
There’s plenty to keep me busy for the next few weeks this summer. I’ve been enjoying listening to and watching the summer sporting events and thankful, as always, for new music. It’s nice to have a few distractions from revising my PhD chapters (and applying for jobs). Now, back to the revisions!