Results for “my favorite things”
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My favorite things Grenada

This one may seem like a stumper but in fact it's a breeze.  Here goes:

1. Painter: Canute Calliste, who paints in a naive style.  You'll find four images and a bit of biography here.  I first encountered his work at a Quito biennial in the mid-1990s.  His best works are not on-line.  Here is one other painting by Canute Caliste.

2. Short story writer: Paul Keens-Douglas.  This pick is a no-brainer.  Here is Keens-Douglas telling a story.  Here is Keens-Douglas doing a comedy routine.  I used to have some very good cassettes of him telling folk tales.

3. Musical artist: The calypso genius Mighty Sparrow is usually thought of as coming from Trinidad, but in fact he was born in Grenada.  Here is a YouTube clip.

4. 19th century Haitian revolutionary: Henri Christophe was born in Grenada.

5. Movie, set in: I can only think of one, namely the 1957 Island in the Sun, starring Harry Belafonte, which is well known for its early portrayal of an interracial embrace.  I haven't seen it, but I guess I like it in principle.  Much of it was filmed in Grenada as well.

The bottom line: For an island of about 100,000 people, that's not bad.

My favorite things Florida

Was Tom Petty correct to think he was cursed by the critics for sounding so "normal"?  I'd rather listen to Tampa Red or Cannonball Adderly.  You can list many people who spent winters in Florida, or died there, but they don't quite count.  Ernest Hemingway had a close enough tie to Key West and I favor his short stories over his novels.  Zora Neale Hurston is still worth reading.  Carl Hiaasen is true Florida but I've never finished one of his books.  Juanes lives in Miami and he has five or so very good pop songs, maybe more.  Celia Cruz ended up there too and I suspect many other Latino musicians did as well.  In sum that list probably would be very impressive.  Purvis Young is a good "Outsider" artist.

Many excellent movies are set in Florida.  Where do I start?

Body Heat.  The underrated Wild ThingsKey LargoContactDeuce BigelowAce Ventura (a favorite).  Various space launch movies.  The superb Ulee's Gold.  Parts of Midnight Cowboy.  Didn't Elliott Gould and Robert DeNiro end up there every now and then?  I feel there are additional noir movies and parts of gangster movies.  I Dream of Jeannie was set there.

Miami has long been one of my favorite American cities and I like Tampa for its dumpiness.  Naples is boring.

My favorite things Nicaragua

1. Author and poet: Ruben Dario is a clear first pick and he is by far the most influential Nicaraguan figure in the history of ideas in Latin America.  It still reads quite well.  Here are Ruben Dario quotations.

2. Artist: Adele de y Gaza.  In general I like the naive painting from the Grenada area.  I've only seen pictures of her work in books and I can't even find her in Google.  If you're looking to sell one by her, let me know.  I am also a fan of Alejandro Arostegui, from Bluefield.

3. Bianca Jagger deserves a mention, if only because I don't know of many other Nicaraguans, but for what category?  Favorite Nicaraguan model?  Favorite Nicaraguan ex-wife of a Rolling Stone?

4. Album, about: The best third of The Clash's Sandinista is one of my favorite albums, period.

5. Film, set in: Men With Guns, by John Sayles.  I don't love this movie, but what am I to pick?  I found The Mosquito Coast to be excruciating.  Here are other options, none of which I've seen, none of which I want to see.

By the way, if you're wondering what happened to "My Favorite Things Alberta," all I could think of was Six.

My favorite things Sweden

Most of the answers seem too obvious to list.  I will say only that there is more to Swedish detective fiction than Stieg Larsson (start with Henning Mankell), lingonberries are usually a good idea in a meal, "Honey Honey" is the most underrated Abba song (it didn't make Greatest Hits I), there are more excellent Bergman movies than most people think even if you don't like the stereotypical ones, Carl Milles's greatest work is in a Fairfax/Merrifield cemetary on Rt.29 in Virginia, Emanuel Swedenborg is unreadable, and the world music group Simbi really does make note-perfect copies of native Haitian musical styles.  The Cardigans are better than their reputation and Knut Wicksell's 1898 Interest and Prices still has unmined insights.  The pizza is surprisingly good.  Robert V. Eagly's book on the 18th century Swedish bullionist controversies is excellent and neglected.  Everyone should read Staffan Burenstam Linder's The Harried Leisure Class.  The country has long appreciated the merits of floating exchange rates.  Ann Margret was from Sweden too.

My favorite things Sicily

1. Novel, set in: The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.

2. Movie, set in: This is a tough one.  But I'll opt for Visconti's The Leopard (big screen required, don't bother with Netflix) over Coppola's Godfather sequence, not to mention La Terra Trema and L'avventura.  Wow.  Is there a Sicily scene in Patton?

3. Chess opening: 5…a6, the Najdorf.  Chess is a good example of the more general point that it takes a long time to discover which innovations turn out to be valuable and which not.  Thirty years ago, who would have thought that 6.Be3 would become the most common response?

4. Playwright: Luigi Pirandello, but I would call this a "favorite only because I can't think of anyone else."

5. Opera composer: Bellini, especially the first Act of Norma, sung by Maria Callas.  There is also Alessandro Scarlatti but I don't know his music well.

6. Musical arranger: Pete Rugulo, yes he was born in Sicily and later he arranged for Stan Kenton.  That music still sounds impressive to me.

7. Philosopher: Gorgias was smart but cynical (if we trust Plato).  Empedocles was sooner a natural scientist in my view.  Archimedes I would count as a mathematician.  

8. Painter: Antonello de Messina is a clear first choice, unless you count De Chirico as Sicilian.  Here is a very good Messina image.

9. Movie director: Frank Capra was born in Sicily; see my comments on Pirandello.  Note by the way that I am not considering Sicilian-Americans unless they were born in Sicily.

They have a bunch of accomplished writers and poets I'm not familiar with, other than Lampedusa, so I don't have a favorite there.

The bottom line: A nice, diverse list, with numerous surprises.

My favorite things Mars

This was a reader request, so here goes:

1. Song about: Venus and Mars, by Paul McCartney and Wings.  The melody is nice, the synthesizer is used well, and the song doesn't wear out its welcome.

2. Album about: David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Venus and Mars is not overall a good album; it is mostly dull and overproduced.  So Bowie is a clear winner here.

3. Novel about: The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.  Worth a reread, especially if you first encountered it when young.  Red Mars by Kim Robinson is a runner-up.  What else am I missing?

4. Film about: Mission to Mars.  Underrated de Palma, much better on a big screen, where it has a nice poetry of motion.  I already know that some of you hate this movie, so there is no need to pillory me again on this count.  I have never seen The Eyes of Laura Mars.  What's that old science fiction movie modeled after The Tempest?

5. TV show about: Veronica Mars, especially season one.  Excellent dialogue, and it asks what family really consists of.  One of my favorite years of any TV show.  Is the British show Life on Mars good?  I vaguely recall My Favorite Martian from when I was a kid.  Was it actually about being gay?

6. Musician: Sun Ra.

7. Mars, painting of:  Jacques Louis David probably wins this oneThis image is from Pompeii.

8. Best Cato Institute essay about Martian economics: By Ed Hudgin.

The bottom line: It's not just a culture, they've got a whole planet to work with.

My favorite things Alabama

1. Popular music.  Emmylou Harris is from Birmingham and I like her albums with Gram Parsons.  "The New Soft Shoe" is an excellent song.  While I appreciate Nat King Cole in the abstract I never choose to put it on.  Lionel Richie has a nice voice but the sound is too bland for my taste.

2. Painter: The early Howard Finster is excellent, although he churned out weak material for a long time later on.

3. Jazz: Lionel Hampton is the obvious choice, but I will pick Sun Ra, who is a musical god of sorts for me.  Jazz in Silhouette is the best place to start, although it does not communicate the overall diversity of his work.  He remains an underrated musical figure.

4. Country music: Hank Williams.  Even if you hate country music you should buy the two CDs of his collected works.  I also love Shelby Lynne; start with I am Shelby Lynne.

5. Bluegrass: The Louvin Brothers.  Tragic Songs of Life is one of my favorite albums as it has a deeply scary and tragic feel; again you can love it even if you hate country and bluegrass.  Do you know the song "The Great Atomic Power"?

6. Writer: I can't make my way through To Kill a Mockingbird.  Who else is there?  Wasn't one of Charles Barkley's books funny?  I've never finished a Tobias Wolff novel, too stilted.  Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King were very good writers, though they don't quite fit the category.  Same for James Agee.  Truman Capote would be an easy pick except I don't enjoy his books.  Zora Neale Hurston was born in the state though I am inclined to classify her under "Florida."

7. Quilters: From Gee's Bend, Alabama, there is an entire tradition.  The traveling exhibits of these works are excellent.

8. Gospel: Blind Boys of Alabama.  They transfer better to disc than do a lot of gospel groups.

9. Song, about: Don't go there.

10. Movie, shot inClose Encounters of the Third Kind.  As for "Movie, set in" here is a worrying list.  Maybe I'll go with Fried Green Tomatoes, although the book is supposed to be better and more open about the sexuality of the main characters.

The bottom line: There are some major stars here and I haven't even mentioned the famous athletes.

My favorite things Nevada

I am flying there tonight, to speak at  But yikes people, this is a tough one.  I never finished Walter van Tillburg Clark's The Ox-Bow Incident and what else can I think of?  Wikipedia tells me that Curtis Hanson, who directed L.A. Confidential, is from Reno.  Does Wayne Newton somehow enter this equation?  The Killers are OK.

How about this?

1. Movie, set in: Viva Las Vegas, with a number of strong runner-ups, including Ocean's Eleven, Leaving Las Vegas, the still under-rated Casino, Diamonds are Forever, Showgirls, Austin Powers (partly, I recall), and you might even squeeze Godfather II into the category.  Catch this erotically supercharged clip of Elvis singing to Ann Margaret.  Wasn't Them set in Nevada?

2. Song, set in: Viva Las Vegas, with Las Vegas, by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, as runner-up.

3. Architecture book, set in: Robert Venturi, Learning from Las Vegas.

The state has excellent food, but overall I come no further.

The bottom line: You tell me.  If you're wondering, I've never gambled, although I have visited the city four times.  I genuinely cannot understand why so many other people find gambling to be an appealing pastime.  It's negative expected value!  There are so many positive expected value things to do.

My favorite things Barcelona and Catalan

1. Cellist: Pao Casals; see my comments under Puerto Rico.

2. Artist: Joan Miró, who remains underrated.  Oddly many people do not see him as better than the guy who puts the squiggles on their design bags.  Almost everything he did — across media — was phenomenal in terms of composition and textures.  I am fond of Antoni Tapies, although his work does not reproduce well on-line.  Aristide Maillol, who was French Catalan, did paintings and sketches.  Dali is now so vilified by some intelligent people that he can rightly be considered underrated.

3. Novelist: Albert Sanchez Piñol's Cold Skin is a favorite of mine.  Quim Monzó is a fun writer, as is Carlos Ruis Zafón.

4. Architect: I have mixed feelings about Gaudi; it feels to me like he is trying too hard.  How about Lluís Domènech i Montaner?  Try this one too.

5. Composer: Isaac Albeniz, especially as played by Alicia de Larrocha.  There is also Federico Mompou.  I grew up playing the guitar music of Fernando Sor, though it is less fun to listen to.

6. Economist: Xavier Sala-i-Martin; his home page is full of interesting links.

7. Bandleader: Xavier Cugat.  Wong Kar-Wai likes him but mostly he is forgotten.  Here is a good video and you can hear his unusual Spanish accent as well.

8. Medieval theologian and memory expert: Ramon Llull.  I am a big fan of Llull, a cosmopolitan polymath and early advocate of animal welfare.  I wrote a part of my next book about him, although I ended up cutting it out of the final draft because it didn't quite fit.

9. Movie, set in: I've never seen Barcelona (is it good?), so I have to go with Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  There's probably a better movie set in Barcelona, but offhand I don't know it.

10. Chess openingDuh.

They have a bunch of opera singers too.

The bottom line: This is an impressive showing, yet what ties it all together remains elusive in my mind.  Perhaps that is what makes the region so interesting.

My favorite things Portugal

1. Singer: Amalia Rodrigues, fado specialist.  I am also a fan of Sara Tavares, especially this CD.  Carmen Miranda is often thought of as Brazilian, but she was born in Portugal and I believe she grew up there as well.  She was good.

2. Popular music: Nelly Furtado has Portuguese ancestry, although I believe most of the demons who inhabit the MR comments section would count her as Canadian.

3. Novelist: Jose Saramago.  But I don't like them all.  Blindness, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, and The Double are the primary ones to read.  Baltasar and Blimunda I should try again.  The Stone Raft is good.  Currently I am reading, and enjoying Antunes's Fado Alexandrino.

4. Philosopher: Can I count Spinoza?

5. Painter: I guess I pick Paula Rego.  I can't think of a classic painter here. 

6. Poet and essayist: Pessoa.  I've been influenced by his work.  The Book of Disquiet is his masterpiece.

7. Composer: Manuel Cardoso is the only one I can think of.  He's OK.

8. Former colony: Brazil.  But there's stiff competition.

9. Economist, one eighth of him: Can you guess?  The eighth is from the Madeira Islands with the family name Alfonso.

The bottom line: I am worried by the gaps here, including classical music, cinema, painting, and sculpture.  Yet #8 makes up for it all.  I suspect that too much royal patronage is the reason why there are so many notable Portuguese explorers and so few recognized composers.

My favorite things Missouri

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. 

My favorite things Puerto Rican

The list came out quite well:

1. Actress: Jennifer Lopez.  Seriously.  Out of Sight is quite good and the badly misunderstood The Cell makes perfect sense once you realize it is a retelling of parts of Sikh theology.  Rita Moreno gets honorable mention.

2. Cellist: Pablo Casals (his mother was Puerto Rican and he ended up living there).  His Bach Suites, while profound, are largely unlistenable due to the scratching and scraping.  Nonetheless there are still revelations to be found in the trio recordings, Schubert, bits of the Beethoven, etc.

3. Artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Sneer if you wish, but his 1982-1984 period is very good, most of all the sketches.  There are many bad Basquiat works, however, and lots of fakes.

4. Economic historian and colleague: Carlos Ramirez.  Don't forget his paper on the bailout.

5. Poet: Juan Ramón Jiménez, who left Spain for Puerto Rico.  Here is his Platero y Yo.  Although he won a Nobel Prize in 1956, this very pure poet remains underrated in the United States.

6. Reggaeton song: Gasolina, by Daddy Yankee; note that reggaeton originated in Panama.

7. Guitarist: Jose Feliciano.  Here is his Star-Spangled Banner (excerpt) and here.  Here is Jose and Johnny Cash.

8. Musical, about: Paul Simon's The Caveman (not WSS, which I actively dislike).

9. Art museum: The two notable collections of pre-Raphelite art in this hemisphere are in Wilmington, Delaware and Ponce, Puerto Rico.  Each is worth a visit.

10. Building: Puerto Rico has many fine homes and a surprising amount of Art Deco, plus the colonial buildings and fortifications in San Juan.  Here is the over the top fire station in Ponce.  But overall I'll pick the metalwork on one of the country homes, somewhere between San Juan and Ponce.

The bottom line: The achievements are strong and varied, noting that I've used a looser notion of affiliation than in some comparisons past.

My Favorite Things Alaska

All this attention is being devoted to Alaska, so I thought I should do my own evaluation.  Note in advance that politicians don’t usually make these lists, they’re not "favorite" enough for me.  And enough about her for now anyway (though I’ll note in passing, in response to Andrew Sullivan and others, that if voters want to like her, they’ll simply refuse to see McCain in the properly cynical light); but no more comments on this issue for now as I want the blogosphere back!

1. Novel, set in: Jack London’s Call of the Wild or White Fang are the obvious choices.  Did you know that London’s fiction was very widely read in the former Soviet Union?

2. Music: There’s Jewel and Bette Midler and maybe you’re all wondering which one I will pick.  But the excellent Kevin Johansen, also associated with Buenos Aires I might add, is the proverbial rabbit from the hat.  Ha! 

3. Movie, set in: Both Never Cry Wolf and Grizzly Man are very good; the former had a lead character named Tyler before the name became fashionable.  And isn’t Nanook of the North set in Alaska?  Into the Wild is another pick and I doubt if I have exhausted the list.

4. Basketball player: Carlos Boozer is from Juneau.

5. Sculpture: Alaska is probably #1 in the entire United States once you consider the indigenous peoples.  The best works are from the 1950s and 60s and they are not always attributable.  My personal favorite is Thomassie Annanok but of course that is a matter of taste.  Ingo Hessel’s book on Inuit Art is a favorite of mine, noting that it focuses more on Canada than Alaska.

6. Other arts: The Tlingit (some of whom live in Canada) have excellent totem poles, boxes, and carvings.  The Haida are another rich artistic tradition.

7. Novel, set in: Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is the obvious pick plus I hear The Cloud Atlas (The Liam Callanan book, not the David Mitchell one, which is very good but not connected to Alaska) is good.

8. Travel book, set in: Jonathan Raban’s Passage to Juneau: A Sea and its Meanings is lovely.  I’ve never read John Muir’s Travels in Alaska but it is likely a contender.

9. Blogger: Hail Ben Muse of Alaska, advocate of free trade!

The bottom line: It relies too much on "set in," but overall the list is better than I had been expecting.  Sadly, Alaska is the one American state I have yet to visit.

My favorite things Chile

1. Fiction: I’ve already covered Roberto Bolaño plenty on MR; The Savage Detectives is his masterpiece but it’s all worth reading.  The massive 2666 is due out later this year.  José Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of Night, while hardly read in the U.S., seems to me one of the most gripping novels of the 20th century.  If you read the Amazon reviews you’ll that others who have read it agree.  This is one of the least read first-rate novels I know.  It’s not easy going, however, and it’s taking me a long time to read through a mish-mash of the English and Spanish-language texts.  To top it all off, Isabel Allende has many fun books, most notably The House of the Spirits, which almost everyone will enjoy.  Chile is much stronger in literature than most people think.

2. Popular music: Ricardo Villalobos is the lead figure of Chilean techno, which is now I hear quite a vibrant genre; Taka Taka is quite a good mix album.  What else can you point me to?

3. Poetry: My favorite Neruda is Canto General, his retelling of Whitman’s America but covering the entire hemisphere.  A masterpiece.  Estravagario is excellent and while I haven’t read Residencia de la Tierra, it is considered another one of his classics.  The love poems are very nice though perhaps not his best material.  In any case he is one of the three or four best poets of the twentieth century.  Gabriela Mistral is talented but I cannot say I love her work.

4. Playwright: Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden is good.

5. Favorite small town: There are so many, but how about Villarica, Punta Arenas, or that small port place next to La Serena whose name I cannot remember?  Chile is one of the world’s best countries for lovely small towns.

6. Movie, set in or made in: Sorry folks, but I can’t think of a single one.  What am I missing?

7. Seafood dish: Curantos.

8. Pianist: It’s hard not to pick Claudio Arrau, but, despite his musical intelligence, I don’t actually enjoy most of his (to me) lugubrious recordings.  I have heard he was much better live in concert.

9. Painter: Roberto Matta is the obvious choice.

The bottom line: Writing, writing, and more writing.  More generally, Chile is one of the very nicest countries on Earth.  The key is to get around to those small towns.

My favorite things Ohio

I’m hardly here for long, so here goes:

1. Author: There’s Sherwood Anderson and William Dean Howells and Toni Morrison; I’ll pick the latter though none are true favorites of mine.   

2. Director: Wes Craven remains underrated; I still like his The Serpent and the Rainbow, among others.  I can’t think of a notable movie set in Ohio, can you?

3. Painter: George Bellows’s reputation has shot up in the last twenty years; here’s an unusual Bellows print.  I very much like the botanical paintings and prints of Jim Dine, although I can’t find a good one on-line.

4. Popular music: I can’t think of much…Boz Scaggs doesn’t count nor does Peter Frampton.  Lonnie Mack’s The Wham of That Memphis Man! is one of the least known great albums.  Doris Day is a very good singer and do see Pillow Talk if you don’t already know it.

5. Jazz: There is Art Tatum, especially the early Capitol work, not so much the later Pablo recordings.  Billy Strayhorn was often behind the best Duke Ellington arrangements.

6. Classical music recording: George Szell’s Beethoven’s 3rd remains a landmark recording, or try his Piano Concerti set with Leon Fleisher.

7. Philosopher: Willard van Orman Quine. most of all Word and Object.  Now that’s a favorite.

8. Sculptor: Maya Lin did the Vietnam Memorial though she hasn’t had much of a second act.

The bottom line: The achievement from this state is remarkably well-distributed across different artistic fields and genres.  Why?  Is it because the state has so many different cities of at least middling size?  Or is it because the state straddles the East and the Midwest?  Sadly there is no Cincinnati chili for me this time.

Addendum: Angus of Ohio comments.