My favorite things Missouri

by on February 26, 2009 at 5:13 am in The Arts | Permalink

What a strong, strong state this is.  Where to start?

1. Director: Robert Altman, with Gosford Park as my unusual choice of favorite.  Nashville I find unwatchable.

2. Popular music: Chuck Berry; "13 Question Method" is his best little-known song.  Throw in Eminem and Wilco and Burt Bacharach for good measure.

3. Ragtime song: "Euphonic Sounds," by Scott Joplin.

4. Jazz song: "Koko," by Charlie Parker.  Don't forget "St. Louis Blues."  Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young all could be put into the Kansas City jazz tradition.

5. Painter: Thomas Hart Benton, with George Caleb Bingham as a good runner-up.

6. Sculptor: Donald Judd.

7. Writer: Duh.  But after that, I don't find Heinlein or Laura Ingalls Wilder or William Burroughs to be readable (sorry!)

8. Poet: T.S. Eliot, with Marianne Moore and James Langston Hughes as runners-up.

Virgil Thomson belongs somewhere, but in what category?  Note also that Kansas City has a superb collection of Chinese art and St. Louis has wonderful contemporary German art.

The bottom line: Amazing!  Kansas City and St. Louis were on the rise while America was experiencing one of its cultural peaks. 

David Wright February 26, 2009 at 5:24 am

Why is Gosford Park an unusual choice? I can’t imagine any other choice for Altman’s best film.

Michael February 26, 2009 at 6:12 am

Excuse my impertinence, but I would be extremely curious to see a “Tyler Cowen’s favorite things Sweden” post :)

Jay February 26, 2009 at 6:39 am

I’m happy to say that Wilco is from Chicago… and Altman’s Short Cuts is arguably one of his best.

Todd February 26, 2009 at 7:00 am

Glad to see my home state getting some love. Still, you would be amazed at how many people I’ve met out here on the east coast that don’t even realize that Kansas City and St. Louis are even in Missouri, or what great cities they are. I have to say I was surprised to actually hear someone refer to it as fly-over country in a live conversation. Well, it’s their loss I suppose.

Yola February 26, 2009 at 7:39 am

Isn’t Eminem from Detroit, Michigan?

Deborah February 26, 2009 at 7:47 am

You did throw me curve with Gosford Park. I though it was extremely PC and preachy. (and yes I love Nashville). But another one of his underrated ones is Pret a Porter. Hilarious, and with some wonderful insights about female competition. Never did understand the hostility it aroused.

Timothy February 26, 2009 at 8:08 am

Wilco all the way

josh February 26, 2009 at 8:14 am

#1 is absolutely correct.

LJ February 26, 2009 at 8:42 am

How about Tennessee Williams? He went to high school and college in Missouri; I believe he’s buried in St. Louis.

Anonymous February 26, 2009 at 9:10 am

Am I wasting my time with The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?

Peripatetic Entrepreneur February 26, 2009 at 9:39 am

For the poster above, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was a GREAT book in the 60’s and 70’s. There is a great story about why Heinlein pounded Cheyenne Mountain in the end. However, most of Heinlein’s work has not aged well. Neither have Asimov’s or Clarke’s, I’m sad to say. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel (a juvie novel) has held up remarkably well, though.

anonymous February 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

Eminem was born in Missouri, but I would consider him from Detroit (or Warren, MI) given that he spent much of his childhood there, he went to high school there, and that was really where he got into music and launched his career.

spanish bombs February 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

I’m from Eminem’s birthplace, but he is definitely not from Missouri in any sense except that he was born there. Wilco is definitely a Chicago band. I think KC probably has some good jazz musicians though, such as Coleman Hawkins.

zbicyclist February 26, 2009 at 10:49 am

KC and STL have been at some pains to pretend they aren’t in the same state — possibly illustrated by the two FRB’s.

The Cardinals are in the National League. The A’s and now the Royals are in the American League. The Cardinals chief rivalry is with the Cubs, not the Royals.

The football Cardinals and now the Rams are in the NFC. The Chiefs are in the AFC.

As an undergrad at University of Missouri St. Louis, it seemed like they paid some attention to the main campus at Columbia and the engineering school at Rolla, but did their best to ignore the UMKC campus. At UMKC, they noted they used to be a freestanding school, but were now part of the university system, but weren’t “3 parking garages and an instant commuter school” like UMSL. I don’t know if this attitude still prevails.

will February 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

Uncle Tupelo, the band Wilco arose from, was from Belleville, IL. That being said their early success and notice was in St. Louis. Plus if I remember right the inceptions of both Wilco and Son Volt were in St. Louis before they shortly moved on with Wilco in Chicago and Farrar spent time in Louisiana.

St. Louis takes Tennessee Williams as one of its own.

http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/

As for music we can back the more contentious noms with Nelly, Ike and Tina Turner, Miles Davis (albeit another East St. Louis, IL native), and Michael McDonald…

scott February 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

Current MO actors include Brad Pitt and Don Johnson, both from around Springfield. Let’s alson not forget John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, from Leclede

tgb1000 February 26, 2009 at 11:46 am

A fun and interesting post. And as a kicker, Tyler Cowen declares Laura Ingalls Wilder unreadable!

Douglas Russell February 26, 2009 at 11:53 am

Check out the Thomas Hart Benton collection at the Nelson Art Gallery.
Amazing!!!!

d.cous. February 26, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Wow, am I to gather that readers of this blog are fond of Wilco?

I think Gosford Park is the only Altman film I’ve ever seen, but I liked it. Given Tyler’s love of bad movies, I’m beginning to wonder if I should be ashamed of this.

I hope to visit KC one of these years, but haven’t gotten there yet.

shecky February 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I’ve always though “Havana Moon” stood out as one of Berry’s better, and more unusual songs.

alex February 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Tyler’s opinions are evidence that good taste does not accompany experience or knowledge.

Richard M February 26, 2009 at 1:37 pm

A suggestion for best Missouri writer, someone writing now to great critical acclaim– Daniel Woodrell, from West Plains, Missouri, who writes in a delicious genre he calls “Ozark Noir.” He also wrote the novel on which one of the best Missouri films, “Ride with the Devil,” is based. But is later stuff is amazing.

Jim Hu February 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Gosford Park is hardly a no-brainer given Altman’s output. In addition to Nashville there are many other Altman works that are well thought of, including MASH, McCabe and Mrs Miller, The Player among others. Personally, my quirky Altman pick would be A Wedding, with the more mainstream pick being MASH.

IMO, Gosford Park was OK, but its reputation was inflated by a kind of “lifetime achievement” aura for Altman as alte Mann.

Chris February 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

No love for Pat Metheny in the the Jazz section? Your selections seems biased towards the “traditionalists” of which Metheny certainly is not a part. But he has long been redefining “Jazz” and “Jazz Guitar”.

Darren February 26, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I’m assuming you’ve seen Altman’s “3 Women” and “California Split,” but definitely check them out if you haven’t. “Quintet” is probably the worse movie ever by a great director.

Ed D. February 26, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Miles Davis. Yes I know, East St. Louis is really Illinois, but, well, close enough. It is Miles Davis after all. I’m sure he could be heard across the river.

Ed D. February 26, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Miles Davis. Yes I know, East St. Louis is really Illinois, but, well, close enough. It is Miles Davis after all. I’m sure he could be heard across the river.

Eric February 26, 2009 at 10:02 pm

How did you avoid bbq?

johnrobert February 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I think Heinlein and Burroughs are things that you have to have encountered in the storm of adolescence. I found Heinlein then and I can still read him now, because somehow all of my adult perspectives just switch off when I get the (rare) urge to revisit Heinlein. I didn’t hit Burroughs until I was an adult, and it was just garbage.

John Payne February 27, 2009 at 10:40 pm

No one has mentioned Walt Disney? Really? He did create one of the greatest cultural empires America his ever known. In this Missourian’s opinion, you could take just his influence and that of Twain and beat almost every other state.

Nylund February 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I was just thinking about the best bands from California earlier today.

I thought of The Greatful Dead, the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Metallica, Van Halen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Byrds, Sublime, No Doubt, Guns N Roses, etc., with hip hop, between NWA, Dre, Snoop, 2-Pac, Digital Underground, etc. etc…you get quite a long list. Course, CA is a big state.

Point being, I think you could make a great list for a number of states and I’m not sure Missouri would really shine through as particularly amazing if you did.

Scott Swank March 2, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Wilco arose from the ashes of Uncle Tupelo, which was a Missouri band, arguably a great one.

On the topic of jazz, don’t forget Oliver Nelson. Especially don’t forget Blues and the Abstract Truth.

CZ Electric May 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

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