Bookworming

The Shakespeare Project, Part 4 and Final

As you might or might not remember, last year I’ve embarked on a plan to read all Shakespeare plays between the 450th anniversary of his birthday and the 400th anniversary of his death. As the deadline is a few months ahead and I’ve already read them all, I declare the project a grand success. #selfimprovementfordummieshellyeah

Here are the last plays from the list, including some of my favorites that I left for last.

31. As You Like It

Reading: Third

Pluses: I know this is one of the important plays but I mostly like the woods in it.

Minuses: It spends too much time with the fool(s).

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

32. Twelfth Night

Reading: Second

Pluses: There’s something interesting about the female characters.

Minuses: Not terribly interesting though. And I think there’s even more time spent on the fool. I also feel the way Malvolio gets treated is unnecessarily cruel.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

33. Macbeth

Reading: Third

Pluses: This has always been one of my favorites. I like the grotesque witches, atmospheric Scotland, psychological self-torture of the villains. Finally, unlike in most of these plays, this one is actually interesting in the simple sense of “what happens next?”

Minuses: There could be a little less fighting, maybe, but that’s just being picky.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

34. Measure for Measure

Reading: Second

Pluses: This play is positively surprising in how it’s mostly not trying to be funny. I liked when it focused more on moral dilemmas and how sex was viewed as one of them.

Minuses: Sometimes it is trying to be funny.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

35. Antony and Cleopatra

Reading: Second

Pluses: The characters are interesting and the setting around the Roman empire quite ambitious, with the frequent jumps between Egypt and Rome. I think I generally preferred the ancient plays to the Renaissance ones.

Minuses: I still find Cleopatra irritating.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

36. All’s Well That Ends Well

Reading: Second

Pluses: With this one I finished all the comedies. And the title is quite appropriate for that.

Minuses: Seriously, Bertram? What’s up with him? How marrying him can be any idea of a happy ending? I’m not sure there are any other particularly positive characters, for that matter, though I guess the old timers are the most interesting.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

37. Romeo and Juliet

Reading: Fourth?

Pluses: This is simply an interesting play. The events follow swiftly (if, sometimes, hysterically) and the characters are well-differentiated in their tempers and motivations.

Minuses: Not much, but I did enjoy it more when I read it before. I guess it’s like some of those songs that you’ve heard so many times you finally start to wonder what the big deal is and then change the station.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And that’s it! I actually expected the undertaking to be more troublesome but, in fact, some of the plays surprised me quite positively. It also gave me a deep, meaningless sense of satisfaction to complete mu cultural gaps. And now on to the other part of the project, a design one, but this one I will probably share elsewhere.

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Bookworming

The Shakespeare Project, Part 3

The time’s come to share the third portion of my Shakespearean experience (here’s the first with explanation and the second one). As I’ve decided to start with the lesser plays now I’m slowly moving on to the bigger titles and this definitely makes the journey more interesting.

21. Pericles

Reading: First

Pluses: After all those other plays it’s refreshing, probably because of the cooperation with another writer. The plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it reads fast.

Minuses: The characterization of the persons of the play leaves a bit to be desired: Marina is inexplicably perfect, Dionyza irrationally cruel and I won’t even start about all those brothel would-be clients that Marina converts to seeking religious entertainment.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

22. King Lear

Reading: Second

Pluses: Well, this is one of the greats. Even though it’s extremely dark and probably somewhat depressing, it’s got a powerful atmosphere.

Minuses: I guess if you’re looking for an optimistic conclusion this must disappoint.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

23. Henry VIII

Reading: First

Pluses: It’s the first play with any Henry in the title that I actually enjoyed. I particularly liked how it didn’t have any cold-blooded villains, just normal people with various weak spots: that’s definitely more my kind of a story than all those cartoonish murderers and traitors.

Minuses: If I’m nitpicking I could live without the lower classes’ dialogs but there weren’t a lot of them anyway.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

24. Coriolanus

Reading: First

Pluses: I like these ancient stories and this one is fairly interesting, especially at the beginning.

Minuses: It lacks a really positive character to root for and the view of politics is altogether depressing.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

25. The Comedy of Errors

Reading: Second

Pluses: This one was fairy light, if not that exciting.

Minuses: Not exactly a story you believe in, is it. I also disliked the treatment of Adriana.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

26. Timon of Athens

Reading: First

Pluses: Er, I guess if you try really hard you get to imagine ancient Athens?

Minuses: It lacked redeeming features to me, with Timon going from naïve to misanthropic and all the other characters quite despicable.

Hasty judgment: ♥

27. Troilus and Cressida

Reading: First

Pluses: I liked the characterization of some of the Homeric heroes, different from what you might first expect (like for instance Hector). They felt like actual persons.

Minuses: It’s still not the most exciting of the ancient plays and women’s characterization falls on the negative side.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

28. Hamlet

Reading: Third

Pluses: I must admit I didn’t much appreciate Hamlet on my earlier readings. I couldn’t bear his whining and I found the play overhyped. But this time I appreciated the rawness of the setting and conflicts and the truth of Hamlet’s doubts.

Minuses: To make up for criticizing the play before, I’ll say none.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

29. Love’s Labour’s Lost

Reading: Second

Pluses: It takes place in the woods, I guess.

Minuses: This play goes completely nowhere. It ends and you wonder what it was all for.

Hasty judgment: ♥

30. Othello

Reading: Second

Pluses: While it’s not one of those irritating plays, I still find it hard to come up with pluses.

Minuses: Of all the famous tragedies I always found this one the weakest. Not only does it lack exciting setting and atmosphere of a gloomy castle or, well, gloomy woods but also everybody is so easily manipulated by Iago. And I really dislike Iago-like characters.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

Almost there! And actually it’s way ahead of the timeframe I set for myself at the beginning of the enterprise.

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Bookworming

The Shakespeare Project, Part 2

My reading of Shakespeare continues. I bravely soldier on through historical dramas with a breather of a comedy every now and then. Without much ado (get it?) let’s go to the second part of snap judgments, shall we.

11. Henry VI, part 2

Reading: First

Pluses: Alexander Iden is not despicable, I guess?

Minuses: This play would read like a propaganda piece for French revolution, with monarch(s) and aristocrats well worthy of losing their heads, except the lower classes are even worse. Except for one unimportant character who appears in all of two scenes, everybody is simply horrid.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

12. Henry VI, part 3

Reading: First

Pluses: I guess I will finally remember who was red rose and who was white rose. For a while, anyway.

Minuses: Ugh, enough with those kings already. They are impossible to root for.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

13. The Taming of the Shrew

Reading: Third

Pluses: It’s short.

Minuses: It’s basically a story of domestic (mostly psychological) abuse of an emotionally disturbed woman. Which would be fine, except the tone of it is really hard to get behind. This one has not aged gracefully.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

14. Henry VI, part 1

Reading: First

Pluses: I was interested in Joan, despite the complete ideologically motivated character assassination towards the end.

Minuses: Every other character was traditionally awful.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

15. The Winter’s Tale

Reading: Second, I think

Pluses: I sort of liked the description of the spring festival.

Minuses: This one dragged on forever. It might not be very long but I just couldn’t finish it and Leontes’s psychotic jealous outbreak came out of nowhere and looked too much like a plot device.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

16. Richard III

Reading: First

Pluses: It’s more like tragedies than historical dramas, which means it actually has a story that goes somewhere and then ends.

Minuses: I know Richard is supposed to be despicable but why would I want to read about him? I don’t like such one-dimensional villains.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

17. Two Gentlemen of Verona

Reading: Second

Pluses: It has a dog.

Minuses: It’s more like a sketch and both problems and their solutions tend to come out of nowhere.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥

18. Cymbeline

Reading: First

Pluses: It’s entertaining, a lot is happening and it has a fairy-tale like atmosphere of “far away and long ago.”

Minuses: Almost all male characters are unbearable. This is understandable in case of Cloten or Giacomo, but with Posthumus it undercuts the story.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

19. King John

Reading: First

Pluses: Um, none.

Minuses: Everything else. I haven’t found one thing I would like about this play.

Hasty judgment: ♥

20. The Merry Wives of Windsor

Reading: Second

Pluses: It has no fake Italians and women actually do something and succeed.

Minuses: Of all the characters in all the plays is really Falstaff the one that needs to reappear again and again? Also, linguistic humor doesn’t age well.

Hasty judgment: ♥ ♥ ♥

Well, this wasn’t the most exciting bunch of Shakespeare’s plays but that only means that I’ve left all the really exciting classics for the second half of the challenge so things should get better now.

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Personalness

The Best of 2014

So, the uneven 2014 is coming to an end, which is as good an occasion as any (or, actually, better) to talk about the things that impressed me in the last twelve months.

Book of the year: The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. Somehow I managed to never have read Campbell before and I can’t say I expected overmuch from this transcript of a TV program that this book is but it really blew my mind, dude. Part philosophical and religious treatise, part loose ramblings about life, it has a strange, strange power to make you question things and maybe see them a little more optimistically (or, at least, bravely), even though it doesn’t seem to try to do that.

TV show of the year: The Americans have returned with another impressive, impressive season and Orphan Black was so much fun again but they will have to share the spot with a baby show Mozart in the Jungle. Now that everyone and your aunt is making scripted TV, Amazon has joined the race and it produces a couple of pilots that it later kills or develops, depending on unclear criteria. Ever since I saw Mozart‘s pilot I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed (and that’s a long time to do that) so they would pick it up and they did, and made a whole season – so yay.

Musician of the year: I discovered Langhorne Slim and Zaz and they both climbed fast up through my listening charts, dominating them completely, but the title – both for statistical and honorary reasons – has to go to Bob Dylan (as it could almost every year, I guess?). This year I’ve (re)listened to all his albums in reverse chronological order, even the 80s, which I had always skipped almost entirely before, and I discovered some gems I didn’t even know (I also discovered some things which prove 80s might not have been music’s best decade, Dylan’s music included).

Board game of the year: This would be Legendary, a cooperative game (always my favorite kind of game) in which you fight as Marvel superheroes (my favorite kind of superheroes, no question) against one threat or another. It’s dynamic, fun and so, so geeky!

Comic of the year: If we’re talking geeky, I guess of all this year’s offerings I enjoyed most All New X-men, continuing the great tradition of Morrison and Whedon and probably some other X-men writers I don’t know. (I might know too much about X-men for the comfort of an average person but I’m far from an expert, you see.) It has young Jean Grey and this is surely a fun idea.

Video game of the year: Marvel Puzzle Quest (this ends Marvel’s domination in this list, I swear). It’s basically a match-three puzzle game, which is a pretty boring kind of game to be honest, but it’s combined with gaining and leveling superheroes (of course) and it’s so unnaturally addictive that I think it might be a part of Marvel’s plan to dominate the world. Hmph.

I’m sure there are a few exciting categories missing (food of the year? pastime of the year? eh, maybe not that exciting) but I actually have plans for the night so have a great 2015 everyone, myself included!

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Rotten Tomatoes

Of Space Cowboys and Agents

It’s Friday procrastination time! I’m working on an illustration and intending to work on other exciting things (like a list of files! the thrill!) so I took a short break to post about something that could take a longer post some day, or a couple of those. Today it’s just a glimpse though. So. Let’s talk about Joss Whedon.

I’m a Joss Whedon fan with reservations. To give you a better idea about these reservations, here’s a hierarchy of his work that I’ve seen, from what I find great to the not-so-great.

  1. Firefly (and Serenity) is pretty much a perfect gem: maybe because it was cut too short with no time to ruin it with puppet shows (I’m speaking of you, Angel). I will for sure write more about it once we re-watch it again.
  2. Angel was actually my first insight into the Whedonverse (yes, I just used this word). Of course, I knew Buffy existed but I thought it kind of stupid. I glimpsed an episode of Angel by accident and got sucked into obsequious fandom for years: it was only the fifth season that freed me (puppet shows…). I’m not sure I could actually re-watch all of Angel now but I used to list it as my favorite show for so long and I simply loved the writing.
  3. The Amazing X-men (the comic), one of better things in the X-men franchise, of which I’m disturbingly well-aware. Unlike many other writers, Whedon actually played with the personalities of the characters. I didn’t even mind the aliens.
  4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, good show once you accept its style but ran too long getting into all sorts of hurdles (worst of all: Riley). (I also saw the movie but refrain from grading it. It did have Luke Perry though and back then I still thought it a good thing.)
  5. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a potential gem – what with combining Marvel universe with Whedon – but only started realizing a fraction of that potential towards the end of the first season. It could have better banter and more interesting characters but it’s slowly getting there, I hope.
  6. The Avengers disappointed me. Unlike most other fans, I guess, I felt there was too much action and too little character build-up. It was passable entertainment but I’d expected it to be so much more.
  7. Dollhouse, also known as Whedonloo (okay, I did not just do that). I waited and waited for that show because it couldn’t possibly be bad after Buffy and Firefly but guess what, it was. I gave up after the second episode of the second season so I don’t know if it got any better but I’m guessing not much. A disappointment unless you’re a stalker-level fan of Dushku.

So there goes my surely-divisive list of Whedon creations. I know there are a few other things, including a Shakespeare movie (they will let Whedon do anything these days, won’t they?) but I’ve yet to watch those.

Aaaand back to work.

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Sounds of Music

More Top Songs

When compiling my last list of top music I felt a little bad about leaving out newer songs (it was necessary though). And today I have many photos to retouch and a long text to set so, just to exercise my superpower of procrastination, here comes a follow-up list of 10 songs: Top Songs, part 2. This one includes everything I skipped last time because it seemed too new for me to be sure it would last.

1. The White Stripes “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).” With the White Stripes it’s very hard for me to pick one song because (like many other artists on this list) I like them almost in entirety and I admire how each new album was more ambitious than the previous one. I’m picking a cover because I’m feeling mischievous, I guess, but probably also because it’s very much in tune with the previous list.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “And sometimes I get jealous / Of all her little pets / And I get lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet”

Runners-up: To name just a few “Hotel Yorba” | “Seven Nation Army” (yes, I like the hits) | “In the Cold, Cold Night” | “Icky Thump” etc.

2. The Kills “Superpowerless.” Another case of a band that I like almost completely and only pick a song because I follow my own rules. The Kills are absolutely hypnotic for me; they were an instant fascination, even though they’re unlike my usual favorite bands, and I can listen to them forever.

Favorite bit of lyrics: I really don’t listen to the Kills for the lyrics, just for the rhythm. I don’t even know them, a weird thing for me.

Runners-up: So very many, “Rodeo Town” | “URA Fever” | “Nail in My Coffin” | “I Call It Art” (my first the Kills favorite, different from the rest but gorgeous) | “Cheap and Cheerful” and more.

3. Laura Marling “I Speak Because I Can.” I will finally stop repeating that, but with Marling it’s again a whole bunch of songs of which it’s practically impossible to pick the best one. I fell in love with her music after the first album (perplexed as I was with her crazily young age) and heard the first two albums about a million times. I’m less fond of her later work but when I love her, I’m obsessed.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “When you’re running up the highway / Singing I’m the king, the king of you all / When you look back to where it started / I’ll be there waving you on”

Runners-up: “Ghosts” | “Night After Night” | “My Manic and I” | “The Captain and the Hourglass” | “Hope in the Air” | “What He Wrote” (all of these songs are so powerful and atmospheric).

4. Isobell Campbell and Mark Lanegan “Ramblin’ Man.” My listening to Campbell and Lanegan’s first collaboration honestly bordered on obsession, I loved this album so much. This song is particularly interesting in how it makes a more-dimensional dialogue out of a typical manly nonsense.

Favorite bit of lyrics: No particular bit, I like the interplay.

Runners-up: “Do You Wanna (Come Walk with Me)” (too bad it ended up in commercials) | “Revolver” | “Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart.”

5. Ani DiFranco “As Is.” Frankly, Ani can be boring every now and then but when she’s not, she’s awesome. I went through an Ani DiFranco phase and “As Is” is my favorite because of its simplicity and contained bitterness but lots of her songs are so, so good.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “‘Cause when I look down / I just miss all the good stuff / And when I look up / I just trip over things” (wonderful, isn’t it).

Runners-up: “Little Plastic Castle” | “Fuel” (the only rap I enjoy though I know it’s no rap to those who really care about it) | “Marrow” | “Untouchable Face” (awesome lyrics).

6. Emmy the Great “First Love.” While we’re talking about wonderful women songwriters, we might add Emmy as well. I like many songs from First Love but the titular one is my favorite, with its crazy story and Cohen references.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “I remember you like a verse / That I didn’t want to learn” and also “You were stroking me like a pet / But you didn’t own me yet,” such lovely cynicism about romance (I don’t share it but I’ve always enjoyed it).

Runners-up: “Dylan” (no duh) | “On the Museum Island” | “A Woman, a Woman, a Century of Sleep”

7. Deer Tick “Ashamed.” Let’s pick up the tempo for a moment with one alt-country song I dare to enter here. Love the guitar in this one.

Favorite bit of lyrics: Well, I really like the guitar more than lyrics but I guess “oh, what a crying shame, a crying shame / What we became” has certain true-to-life quality.

Runners-up: I like some songs from Born on a Flag Day and “Dirty Dishes” but no other could make it to the list.

8. The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man.” It was R that got me interested in Pixies but they have a similar effect on me that the Kills do: when I start listening to them, time flies. I know “Here Comes Your Man” is shamefully poppy and I should pick something less known but I can’t help loving this one the most, it’s such a good song.

Favorite bit of lyrics: Some of their songs have almost-meaningful lyrics but not this one, sorry.

Runners-up: “Hey” | “Debaser” | “The Holiday Song.”

9. Langhorne Slim “By the Time the Sun’s Gone Down.” The newest addition and my instant love but I’ve already written about it.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “And by the docks we’ll take a walk / and discuss things we have and never wanted”

Runners-up: “In the Midnight” (it could make the list just as well, the two are equally awesome to me) | “Back to the Wild.”

10. Carla Bruni “Quelqu’un ma dit.” This is not-too-smart an album, lyrics-wise, but Carla has so much charm and her French is gorgeous I can listen to her for hours. It started as an exercise in French but easily ended up here.

Favorite bit of lyrics: This is silly lyrics, no doubt about it. But oh, French is so lovely I don’t care.

Runners-up: “Le toi du moi” (possibly the silliest lyrics ever, but kinda funny).

And I still had to eliminate a lot of songs so I’ll just throw it out there: Johnny Flynn “The Wrote and the Writ” | Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Hysteric” | Fiona Apple “Waltz (Better Than Fine)” | Cowboy Junkies “River Waltz” | The Lumineers “Stubborn Love” | something by Mumford and Sons. There, I feel better already.

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Sounds of Music

My Top Ten Songs

Last weekend our friend A, in between playing board games, told us how he and his wife regret that no one had asked them to compile a list of their top ten songs of all times. But luckily they thought to ask each other this question and are in the process of compiling the list right now.

A is very serious about music but R and me somewhat less so and, as it looked like our kind of challenge (one which doesn’t involve stripping or singing in public), we adopted the idea and have already completed the lists. I know you’re dying to hear all about it so here, without further delay, it goes.

No, wait. First, there have to be rules. So, one spot per one artist or it would be all taken up by Dylan. Also, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics and it affected many of the choices. Finally, after much (some, passing) internal struggle I decided to focus on oldies rather than anything from after 2000 because I just can’t tell if I will still even remember most of those newer artists in another ten years. It made sense when I decided that so here goes the list now.

1. Bob Dylan “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” Because of the one song per one artist rule, of all the brilliant songs I pick this one because it’s the brilliantest. It tells a story and the story is interesting, rich and well-constructed, it has a plot, memorable characters and a surprising reveal and please show me another song by anyone that does that, no, I know you can’t. Also, it’s the best attempt at the redefinition of the ballad tradition, not that you care.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “She slipped in through the side door lookin’ like a queen without a crown / She fluttered her false eyelashes and whispered in his ear / ‘Sorry, darlin’, that I’m late,’ but he didn’t seem to hear”

Runners-up: “To Ramona” (powerful and atmospheric, it touches upon some undefined mystery; or I’m just being pretentious) | “Love Minus Zero” (Dylan’s best love song) | “Like a Rolling Stone” (it just might be the best song ever written) | “Visions of Johanna” | “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (for early-Dylanesque humor) and so on.

2. Patti Smith “Kimberly.” I love Patti Smith dearly but more for her overall feel than for individual songs so this was a bit of a challenge but “Kimberly” has a lot of magic.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “Oh baby, I remember when you were born / It was dawn and the storm settled in my belly”

Runners-up: “Because the Night” (played to death and still lovely) | “Redondo Beach” | “Till Victory” (because Patti is a rocker).

3. Tom Waits “Hold On.” I guess I might choose a different song from today’s standpoint but I definitely listened to “Hold On” the most and I love the lyrics. Also, it might not be cool to admit but I much prefer Waits that’s actually listenable than when he starts doing what one of my online friends once called “vocal torturing” and I never heard a better description of that thing he does sometimes.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “Everyone’s looking for someone to blame / And you shared my bed, you shared my name / Well, go ahead and call the cops / You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops”

Runners-up: “I Hope that I Don’t Fall in Love with You” (when a bar story becomes a human story) | “Time” (surrealist charmer) | “Tom Traubert’s Blues” (messy but gripping) | “Long Way Home” (a hymn for a rebel-without-a-cause kind of romantic interest – was that complicated?).

4. Leonard Cohen “The Stranger Song.” Cohen is mostly about the lyrics and I had a problem choosing my favorite song based on that so I chose on the basis of replayability. “The Stranger Song” is nice to listen to.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “But now another stranger seems to want you to ignore his dreams / as though they were the burden of some other”

Runners-up: Quite a lot, including “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” | “Tonight Will Be Fine” (so much fun, especially for Cohen) | “Famous Blue Raincoat” (so much lyricism, and it’s like a puzzle, trying to identify the pronouns) | “Chelsea Hotel #2” (probably closest to making it to the actual list, what with that famous third line and the fact that I sometimes try to translate the lyrics into French when I really need to occupy my mind with something, it helps that I’m so bad at it; It even deserves a favorite bit of lyrics mentioned: “And clenching your fist for the ones like us / who are oppressed by the figures of beauty”).

5. Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet.” Sometimes I feel like people don’t appreciate this song, how it’s not silly and meaningless (the way most love songs are) and that’s why it’s so popular. But it has lovely lyrics full of subtle humor and not so subtle heartache and Knopfler plays guitar just so well (I don’t know anything about guitars).

Favorite bit of lyrics: “You can fall for chains of silver / You can fall for chains of gold / You can fall for pretty strangers / And the promises they hold”

Runners-up: Not really.

6. Cornelis Vreeswijk “Veronica.” When I tried to learn Swedish my teacher would sometimes make me fill in the blanks to Swedish song lyrics. I didn’t get that much better at Swedish from that (though it was a lot of fun) but I found this gem of a song, proving that American-styled folk is not exclusively American.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “Veronica, Veronica släpp ner ditt långa hår / Och se din vän i ögonen och säg att han får / Och somna i hans armar och vakna lycklig sen / När det dagas.”

Runners-up: Hardly applies.

7. The Velvet Underground “Pale Blue Eyes.” Simplicity makes this song. Unlike the previous ones it has fairly simple lyrics but the delivery makes it very emotional.

Favorite bit of lyrics: “The fact that you are married / Only proves you’re my best friend / But it’s truly, truly a sin”

Runners-up: I like “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” “Sweet Jane” and others but there’s really no competition.

8. Marc Cohn “Walking in Memphis.” One hit wonder that is really wondrous. Possibly my favorite singalong song that is not terribly embarrassing to speak of in public (hello, Gloria Gaynor).

Favorite bit of lyrics: “And I sang with all my might / She said, ‘Tell me are you a Christian, child?’ / And I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight!'”

Runners-up: Not really by Cohn, just other one hit wonders, such as Merrilee Rush “Angel of the Morning”  (love the unidentifiable instrument – I must tell you one day the story of my lack of musical education, it’s colorful – and the corny lyrics) | Free “All Right Now” (I always liked the cynicism of the lyrics, for some reason) | and especially covers; I’d really love to put covers on this list but it doesn’t feel exactly right, with their being so obviously covers.

9. Having said that, Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah.” I can’t help it, it’s my favorite version. It has a sort of middle-of-the-night focus that gives Cohen’s lyrics the power that his delivery denies them. And these are shockingly good lyrics.

Favorite bit of lyrics: I can hardly choose, but I’ll go with “But all I’ve ever learned from love / Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you”

Runners-up: Beth Orton “Sisters of Mercy,” another cover that is better than the original and delivered in a breath-taking manner.

10. “Piece of My Heart” Janis Joplin. This is really a group spot for this song with other runners-up because it includes songs that I no longer listen to very often but once they were so important to me that they shaped my musical taste forever, pushing me towards older music and making me uncool in the eyes of all the Nirvana fans (yes, it’s been a while since I was in school; and I did have a passing Nirvana fascination, to be honest, but it was no longer so cool then).

Favorite bit of lyrics: Eh, these are not great lyrics, to be honest, but let’s say “And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain’t right / Never, never, never, never, never, never hear me when I cry at night / Babe, and I cry all the time!”

Runners-up: Jefferson Airplane “Somebody to Love” and The Doors “Light My Fire” (songs that really showed me what music could be and started my music quest) | “Me and Bobby McGee” if we’re speaking of Janis (another favorite singalong).

And there we went. The hardest thing when making such a list is definitely elimination and I feel bad about all the newer stuff I excluded (not that I had any spots left): these songs might even deserve another list and if I get another free Friday night (and yes, this is what passes for fun around here) I’ll think about drawing one.

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