lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-26 08:55 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 26

What I Just Finished Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
It's been almost 30 years since I first read this and it's only got better with age as I notice things I did not pick up on then. Alexander is one of the best, and everyone should read the Prydain Chronicles.

Preacher – All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
This volume also entertains, after nearly 20 years. That said, Preacher's is an at times uncomfortable brand of humor—you laugh at Ennis' panache while feeling guilty that you're laughing in the first place, and I lose some steam on the final issue, because I don't find anything objectionable about eating horsemeat.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
I hate to say it, but this book failed to live up to its potential. Characters and plot elements I thought were going to be expanded in delicious ways went in entirely different directions (or no direction at all) and while the plot is ambitious the book meanders for far too long before it even hints at what that plot is, so readers are likely to begin drawing their own conclusions and not end up with anything like the book they thought they were reading. That said, it's by no means a bad book, and compared to many current fantasy offerings it does not stick to established tropes.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Still truckin'.

China – Kathy Flower
Truckin.'

Clariel – Garth Nix
In this week's chapters, we have intimations that all was not right in the past, and continues to go poorly in the present. Clariel is beginning to cotton on to the fact that all is not as it seems in the capital.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik
I'm beginning to remember why I burned out a bit during the arc set in the capital city. It's very well written, but such an abrupt change from the preceeding narrative that it disrupts the meditative flow of the read.


What I'm Reading Next
Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret, Alexander's The Black Cauldron, and either Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings or Gaiman's Norse Gods.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-23 11:28 am

So my thoughts on WWE are a lot to fit into a reply window...

...and so they are here. I wrote a big tl:dr post outlining the decade of WWE storylines that culimated in Tuesday's squee, but realising that that was a little much to inflict on the unsuspecting, here are the Cliff's Notes. )

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-19 07:26 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday: July 19

What I Just Finished Reading

The Seeing Stone – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
This book is much better as a full volume than divided into two as Goblins Attack and Troll Trouble, mainly because the fey we meet in the second half are far more engaging than anything we encounter in the first.

The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert Lustig
Lustig is genuinely dedicated to improving health outcomes, but his argument suffers for his devolving everything down to sugar intake. I agree with him that global sugar consumption is far too high and that dopamine reward systems are at the root of this problem. But I'd argue that how corporations use psychology to drive people's behavior, marketing to inflame their insecurities, and data analytics to customize approaches to drive individuals to consume more is a problem that extends far beyond sugar, and that any volume called “The Hacking of the American Mind” needs to delve into these issues to merit the title.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
The best novels make it hard to pick up another book when you've finished reading because you just want this story with these characters to continue. The Essex Serpent is very well written and I enjoyed the ride, but it failed to grab hold of me the way the best novels do. I think some of this is to do with the fact that Perry devoted less of the narrative to the characters who intrigued me most. But the ending was satisfying indeed, and I adore how Perry avoided the pat and predictable outcome every. Single. Time. I'll be reading more by her.

India – Becky Stephens
This book was a good, albeit superficial introduction to the country, although it did try at times to put too much of a good spin on its major social ills.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
When I read this as a kid, Gurgi and Eilonwy drove me nuts. They both still do, but all these decades later I have such affection for them it makes for an easier read.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Still truckin.' I still find it hard to believe Avery's opinions on the social order could have remained so retrograde after all his time in India and Afghanistan, but this somehow irritates me less this time through.

Preacher: All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis
Herr Starr is such a glorious villain. And jesus christ, I'd forgotten how horrible Cassidy is, and how groundbreaking it was for Ennis to portray this stuff way back in '98 and '99.

The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore – Cynthia Giles
Hands down, still one of the best volumes on the cards out there. Why it isn't at the top of recent lists on the subject perplexes.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
With an additional fifth of the book under my belt, I'm less certain I've figured out the big reveal. The writing continues to sparkle, and Holmberg continues to write some of the freshest riffs on YA fantasy out there.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Clariel – Garth Nix
Finally, rainstorms, and I could read more of this book. This week's chapters featured a ripping battle with a Free Magic spirit, and for personal reasons, Nix's portrayal of Clariel's affectionate but clueless and spineless father hurt. Also, it looks like everyone has an angle, and it is glorious.

Captive Prince vol.2 - CS Pacat
For reasons.

What I'm Reading Next
I'm about 1/7 of the way through my read-these-first shortlist, and will continue to pick volumes off in the coming week. Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret is currently at the top of the list.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-18 10:16 pm
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I do most of my WWE flailing elsewhere, but...

...the first 13 minutes of last night's Raw.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I have been waiting almost half a decade for this story arc and I did not think it would ever happen and it did. And it not only did it happen, but it happened as if ficcers had scripted it.

Oh my god. My little fangirl heart. It may not be able to take this.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-12 10:00 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 12

What I Just Finished Reading

10% Happier – Dan Harris
My opinion hasn't been changed by a second read-through: this is an excellent book that does a damn good job of introducing Buddhist concepts without resorting to anodyne BS.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
This book is ultimately good as a reference for learning what sorts of systems and symbolism might be incorporated into any given deck; I was frustrated by how superficial most of the descriptions for any given element were. Perhaps I'm being unfair given that the book is titled Tarot 101, but I also feel there are other authors (e.g., Giles, Kaplan) that do a better job of actually providing basic introductions to said elements, versus saying “these elements exist” and never moving beyond that statement.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
God. God. Alexander isn't using big words, or complex sentences, or pages of descriptive text. So how is this book so good? Whenever I reread him (or Katherine Paterson or Scott O'Dell or Jean Craighead George) I realise how much utter shit is out there, and how high my tolerance for it as grown.

The Seeing Stone – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
Early days for this one, but I'm enjoying the artwork.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Only read a few chapters this week.

Preacher – All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
Some of the humor is quite dated; I doubt as many people today would find “men had gay sex!” or “feminists exist!” to be guffaw-inducing punchlines as did in the late nineties. But the serious plot elements that pivot on gender roles are touching and pretty damn transgressive given how old this series is.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert Lustig
Lustig is an entertaining writer, which is good, because he has a hobbyhorse—sugar—that he is flogging to death. That said, the science he uses to back up his concerns seems sound, and he does a better job than most pop science authors of explaining complicated phenomena in layman's terms. That said, I find myself wishing I'd retained more of all that stuff I learned in undergrad, because it would help me to evaluate his claims. I sense the thesis is going to be that corporations have used sugar (and possibly electronics) to addict people to consumerism-driven quick hits of pleasure at the expense of deeper, yet less exciting contentment, but I haven't made it far enough into the volume yet to be sure.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
I'm still enjoying the book, but several major plot developments are being telegraphed from miles away, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the climax is going to be little more than “here is what happened to this group of characters over the course of a year.” Which isn't to say it's a bad or unentertaining book by any means, just that I though it would be something more, or else. I'm not exactly sure how to put it into words.

India – Becky Stephen
A quick easy read, but there's quite a lot of putting lipstick on pigs when it comes to issues of caste and treatment of women.


What I'm Reading Next
Because ongoing reading has gotten a bit out of hand, I have instituted a “complete this first” list that includes the seven “reading now” books above, plus Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret, Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and Alexander's The Black Cauldron. I also have The Strangler Vine and Midnight Riot going on audiobook, because why not?

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-06 09:31 pm
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What's the Opposite of "Kitchen Wizard"?

So I'm in my kitchen making a pot of mattar paneer. I can cook this recipe in my sleep. I say this with complete confidence because, on more than one occasion, I have dreamed about making it step by step. I've got the peas going on the stove and turn away for a second to mix a teaspoon of cornstarch into the yogurt, because I'm out of arrowroot, and then back to the peas.

When I turn back to the yogurt I'm surprised to find it spilling over the lip of the measuring cup. Oh, god, I think, is this because they put pectin in the yogurt? I hate it when they put pectin in the yogurt. I should have just paid more for the real stuff. I carefully carry the measuring cup across the kitchen and begin folding the yogurt into the sauce.

Which begins to boil. Now I'm cursing myself for not having let it cool down enough before adding the yogurt. (I have never actually boiled yogurt before.) Hoping I haven't just ruined dinner, I set it to cool and start to wash the dishes. I happen to lick the spoon before I dump it in the sink. It tastes oddly salty.

Which is when I realise I haven't used cornstarch at all, but baking soda. For what it's worth, it lends a slightly salty-bitter taste to the dish, and seems to have dissolved most of the paneer on contact, but otherwise it's wholly edible.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-05 09:24 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday - July 5

What I Just Finished Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
The last chapters of this volume are simultaneously some of the most interesting and most horrible to read. Carpenter first traveled to Korea in the late 19th century and met some of the final Joseon kings while they were still on the throne. His descriptions of the yangban's treatment of the peasantry, and men's treatment of women, and the overall state of human development put lie to the notion that things were just hunky dory for everyone before the Japanese occupation. That said, Koreans rank even below the Japanese on Carpenter's sliding scale of racism, and some of the statements he makes are breathtakingly abhorrent. (Buddhist nuns, he tells us, “made me think of the idiots I have seen in some of our state asylums.”) There's a snarling viciousness to modern day racists, for whom trolling is as integral a part of their identity as are their odious beliefs. But Carpenter is all benevolence. After all, he just thinks he's stating objective facts.

Transmetropolitan: Tales of Human Waste – Warren Ellis et al.
This series entertained me when I first read it 20 years ago; it's probably best I had no idea back then that Ellis was actually foretelling the future. Should you wish to know precisely how frighteningly prescient he was, you don't even need to read Transmetropolitan proper. (Although you should.) Just get your hands on a copy of this book.

Thor: Siege Aftermath – Kieron Gillen et al.
In addition to the Siege epilogue issues, this volume has been padded out with three golden-age Thor comics that, to me at least, always feel like more of an obligation read than anything. Luckily, Gillen's contributions focus on the Dìsir, whom I unapologetically love. I want them to have their own title.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Does Carter even realise she's writing shmoop? Because these novels contain so many schmoop tropes from the dawn of online fandom it's unreal, and I think that is why I like them as much as I do.

The Fool's Pilgrimage – Stephan A. Hoeller
To the library patron who stole the accompanying CD and marked up all of the diagrams in thick, blue pen: I hope you get what's coming to you.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
I have been enjoying this one, even though it was surprisingly dark for Holmberg. But then, 19 percent of the way in I realised what was going on (I am pretty sure) and o. m. G.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
I've got about 80 pages left to go, which is appropriate, because this book has turned out to be 80 percent filler, 20 percent content.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Tarot Beyond the Basics – Anthony Louis
I got this book under the impression that it was an explication of the Golden Dawn interpretations for people who don't want to wade through Crowley or Regardie (which sometimes I just don't). But lo and behold, here's Louis saying in the prologue that he's going to ignore the Golden Dawn stuff in favor of astrology. Oh, well. At least it looks like he's going to discuss some sort of systematic interpretation versus the “intuitive” Tarot nonsense that seems to be the thing these days.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
I'm really enjoying this one, which strikes just the right tone of Victorian-weird for me, although it's set a little bit later in the era than I favor. That said, while Michaels or Pulley can make me forget where I am, thus far with The Essex Serpent I'm always conscious that I'm reading a novel.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
Still truckin'.


What I'm Reading Next
The scene: I've walked to the library because I'm bored. I'm idly scanning eye-level spines in the fiction section. The name Susann Cokal jumps out at me. “That's an odd spelling and an unusual last name,” I think. “Just like the odd spelling and unusual last name of the Susann Cokal who wrote Mirabilis...

Wait...

Is this the Susann Cokal who wrote Mirabilis!?"

It is.

I now have the book.


これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-03 10:20 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Days 29 & 30

Aaaand I go out with a fizzle, posting the final two songs almost a week behind schedule.

29 - a song you remember from your childhood
  Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
  In aggregate, I've probably listened to this song more than any other in my life. This is the album version, but the four minute music video is also well worth watching.

30 - a song that reminds you of yourself
  Poe - Control

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-07-03 09:59 pm
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Dear Hamiathes' Gifter

Thank you for writing a Queen's Thief story for me! I can't wait to read your fic. I love all the books and am excited about reading anything set anywhere before, during, or after any of them: I'm very much a go-in-blind reader, so if you have fic ideas already, please jump right in with those. My short list of DNWs, longer list of kinks, and some possible prompts for each request are behind the cut tags.

Read more... )

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-28 11:21 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 28

What I Just Finished Reading

Goblins Attack – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
I very much enjoyed the first Spiderwick Chronicles volume, in which Black was at her creepy best describing the fey, but this one feels like that fanfic an author bangs out in 20 minutes and posts to AO3.

Arkham Asylum – Grant Morrison & Dave McKean
The 10th anniversary edition concludes with Morrison's annotated script, which made me like the comic proper less and neatly illustrates the gamble inherent in publishing scripts. By all means, write an ambitious story full of symbolism, recurrent motifs, and psychological and occult references, but if you need nearly 70 pages of single-spaced text to explain all of these elements because readers can't pick up on them from the story itself, you haven't done your job. (To say nothing of the fact that there's nothing particularly subtle or nuanced about Morrison's use of these elements.) The annotations also remove any question as to whether Morrison sees the rape and murder of women as anything other than an amanuensis for his male (read, real) characters' internal development. The answer, in case you were wondering, is no.

Dave McKean's art is gorgeous, though.

Deathless – Catheryne Valente
Overall, I enjoyed this, although it was a little uneven. The quasi-fairytale form works well with two characters but once you throw in a third you really need to switch to a more realistic style of narration or stick to the short story format, because it's hard to sympathise with characters whose motivations never extend beyond 'because this is what they do in their preordained fairytale roles.' That said, the language is still gorgeous and the interweaving of folktale and Russian history quite well done indeed.

A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer
Overall, this was a decent read that avoided becoming an egotistical vanity project. It's not phenomenal—there's a fair amount of bloat and Grazer frequently contorts himself arguing that every trait on earth ultimately boils down to curiousity by another name. The book could have done without the 20-odd pages listing every single person Grazer's interviewed over the last decades, but since we're on the subject: I counted and Grazer's interviewed 77 women to 480-odd men, so I'm curious to know if Grazer's that much less curious about women.


What I Am Currently Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
Man, this book. Carpenter visited so many of the places (and few of them are tourist hot spots) where nearly a century later I lived, or sheltered from typhoons, or took long walks in the middle of the night. Sometimes I identify the streets from the pictures, or the temple from the description of the neighborhood, and it just makes me want to go back.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Boy I did not care for this one the first time I read it. It just was not plausible to me that Avery could maintain such naivety and unquestioning acceptance of society and its mores after the events of The Strangler Vine and five years in Afghanistan. I still think it's implausible, but post-Devil's Feast I'm much calmer about it, because I am more than happy to follow that glorious character development across multiple volumes.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
There's quite a bit of padding, and some blunders (as when it becomes painfully clear that Huggens has not read some of the books she lists in her "recommended reading" sections). But she compensates with an interesting schema for grouping the major arcana and some really insightful observations on the meanings of specific cards.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Clariel – Garth Nix
I'm only reading this one during rainstorms, which means its slow going in this droughty summer, but this is the best Old Kingdom book since Sabriel, and it deserves to be read with the proper atmosphere.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
Still in early days with this one. Perry tends toward wordiness, but every few pages I'll come across a sentence that is just stunningly beautiful in its construction. I get the sense she's somewhat self-consciously setting up a pair of not traditionally likeable main characters, but we shall see how things progress from here.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
Still truckin'.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – Daniel Pool
Pool alternates between long, listlessly written chapters on topics that could could have been interesting (e.g. card games) and engaging descriptions of the minutiae governing everything from arranging to visit acquaintances or how the various rooms of a house were utilized during social occasions. There's just enough information here tht I haven't encountered in other volumes on the period to keep me reading, but it's by no means the best offering on the topic.

What I'm Reading Next
As ever, I really should finish some of the dozen or so books I've got going now before I add any new ones to the list.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-28 05:44 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Days 27 & 28

I was doing so well remembering to post these daily, until I wasn't.


27 - a song that breaks your heart
  Perfume Genius – No Tear
  This song is a minute fifty-two seconds long. I can make it about 48 in without crying.

28 - a song by an artist with a voice you love
    Marriages - Love, Texas
  I love Emma's lyrics and her guitar too. But her voice. And that outro. That outro. That outro. That outro.


これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-26 11:17 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Day 26

26 - a song that makes you want to fall in love
  Peter Gabriel – I Have the Touch
  Yes, yes, technically a song about extroversion, but the mixture of enthusiasm, optimism, and restless anticipation and dissatisfaction in these lyrics comes closer to my experience of falling in love than anything.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-25 08:38 am
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(no subject)

25 - a song by an artist no longer living
  Joy Division – These Days
  This is perhaps my favorite Joy Division song. The interplay between Ian Curtis' voice, the guitars, the base, the drum track...perfection in under 3 minutes.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-24 10:48 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Days 23 & 24

Hahah, so behind on everything I mean to post...

23 - a song you think everybody should listen to
  Rasputina – Indian Weed
  Rasputina's live presentations are not to be missed and this video demonstrates why. This track just sears.

24 - a song by a band you wish were still together
  Prick – Communique
  Kevin McMahon has been my future husband ever since the days of Lucky Pierre. Listen to this track and understand why.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-22 08:33 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Day 22

22 - a song that moves you forward
  The Thermals – Pillar of Salt
  I don't know what "a song that moves you forward" is, but I love this track and it doesn't matter where I am, I cannot sit still when I listen to it.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-21 09:25 pm
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What Am I Reading Wednesday - June 21

What I Just Finished Reading

The Windfall – Diksa Basu
I very much enjoyed this book. It resembles Austen in its gentle parodying of social mores and its characters' concern for status and material wealth, but also Shakespeare in the way the characters' desires and motivations are at cross-purposes to one another, with everyone misunderstanding everyone else's intentions, often to amusing consequences. In the end, Basu opted to keep things realistic, so there's no neat resolution to the novel's many plotlines, such as one would find at the end of an actual Shakespearean comedy. (And I'm not sure such a conclusion would have served the book better.) This one is fun and definitely deserving of a read.


What I Am Currently Reading

Buddhist Economics – Clair Brown
I'm supposed to have this finished for a book club on Saturday, and I just cracked it open. Heh-heh.

A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer & Charles Fishman
Brian Glazer has produced tons of well-known movies, although I had no idea who he was before I started reading this book. Basically, the guy seeks out talented and interesting people to have short conversations with, which he credits with sparking many of the ideas for his films. It's an interesting concept, and Glazer's narrative is largely free of ego, but it does suffer somewhat for his attempt to redefine everything (courage, civility, grit, you name it) as curiousity.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
There's plenty of “look at the card and let your intuition tell you what it means” wishy-washiness here, but Huggens' grouping of the Major Arcana by archetype versus numerical order is refreshing. I'll be interested to see how she handles the Minors.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
Still truckin'.

Deathless – Catheryne Valente
I lost steam on this one during part 3, but happily it picked up in the final chapter and now we are back in business. I've said this every week, but Valente's language is beautiful and sounds exactly like a fairy tale should. This week's chapters in particular have contained some gorgeously stark imagery.


What I'm Reading Next

The Essex Serpent, and I am very excited about it.


これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-21 05:11 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Day 21

THIS IS THE ENTRY I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.

21 - a favourite song with a person's name in the title
  The Pillows – Kim Deal
  The best song ever written, ever. After nearly two decades it still makes me incandescently happy whenever I listen to it.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-20 05:35 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Day 20

20 - a song that has many meanings for you
  Fever Ray – Seven
  Rather than saying this song has many meanings, I would say there's no possible way to convey this song's meaning aside from through this song itself.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-19 08:13 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Days 19

19 - a song that makes you think about life
  Talking Heads - Heaven
  This song is a finger pointing at the moon.

これで以上です。
lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
2017-06-18 08:32 pm
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30 Day Music Meme - Days 18

18 - a song from the year you were born
  Lucky Pierre – Into My Arms
  This man is the most talented singer/songwriter there is. It's a crime that so few people know him.

これで以上です。