Results for “my favorite things”
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My favorite things Austrian

I will restrict myself to the current borders:

Novel: Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein’s Nephew.  This book, set in an insane asylum, is hilarious and is perhaps the least known of the Continental masterpiece novels of ideas.  Der Untergeher [The Loser] is another brilliant book by Bernhard.  Yes I will put these over Musil and of course Kafka worked in Prague and doesn’t count.  Broch’s The Death of Virgil is a dark horse pick.

Music: This combination of category and place is a bit ridiculous, no?  Just to mix it up, let’s pick Schoenberg’s Op. 31, Variations for Orchestra, or Webern’s Symphony in C, or Piano Variations, Op. 27, played by Pollini or Uchida.  For Berg I’ll pick the Violin Concerto in A minor, or perhaps "Lyric Suite."

If we must look elsewhere, my favorite Mahler is the 9th, the live Karajan version.  Favorite Bruckner is the 8th, the first Karajan version and the Bruno Walter recording of the 4th.  Capriccio and Metamorphosen might be the most underrated Richard Strauss.  My favorite Schubert CD stars Ely Ameling and Jorg Demus, and then Schnabel or perhaps Clifford Curzon doing the last Piano Sonata in B flat.  The Hollywood does an amazing version of the String Quintet in C.  Britten and Pears recorded the ideal Die Winterreise.  I’ve yet to find the perfect version of Schubert’s 9th but I love Furtwaengler’s interpretation.  Favorite Haydn, if we can count him as Austrian, would be the last six piano sonatas and the String Quartets, Op.76.  Mozart I’ve already blogged.

Book about: How about Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, a beautiful portrait of declining Vienna by a man who killed himself?  Another good pick is Toulmin’s Wittgenstein’s Vienna.  Carl Schorske is not to be forgotten either.

Draftsman: Egon Schiele did incredible drawings.  Try this one.  Here is a beautiful painting by Schiele, who died at age 28.

Movie, set in: It is hard to go against The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.

Movie: What is the best Austrian movie?  Here is a list, good luck.  I’ve never seen one all the way through.

Movie star: Duh.

Here is an impressive list of Austrian scientists, including economists.  Karl Pribram and Rudolf Hilferding remain underrated as economists.  Mises is underrated as a theorist of public choice.  Hayek was arguably the first neuroeconomist.  Wieser anticipated much of modern "social economics."  Freud was a brilliant literary analyst.

The bottom line: There are gobs and gobs and gobs.  We haven’t even touched upon design.  But the overall trajectory is not exactly positive once you crack the mid-1930s.

My favorite things Netherlandish

This has long been one of my favorite countries, but these choices are not so tough.  For most of the categories I have clear first picks.

1. Painter: We’re talking favorite here.  Best goes to Rembrandt, but Mondrian changed my life.  For single painting, I opt for Vermeer’s The Art of Painting.  The map in the background (do you get the implicit political and indeed pre-Westphalian Catholic message?) blows me away.  There is also van Gogh, his best works are the drawings.  de Kooning deserves mention, my favorite picture by him is Excavation, which hangs in Chicago.

2. Movie and Director: Paul Verhoeven is the go-to guy, how about The Fourth Man?  But all of his are worth seeing, at least up until Hollow ManStarship Troopers remains one of the most underrated movies; most people didn’t get that it was a critique of militarism and consumer society, all rolled into one.  But you can’t make much money attacking your viewers, at least not in Hollywood.  Verhoeven aside, The Vanishing is a strong entry.  The guy who directed Speed is Dutch as well, I believe.

3. Novel: Harry Mulisch, The Discovery of Heaven.  An underrated Continental novel of ideas, full of metaphysical speculation.  But for such a literate people, this category is surprisingly thin. 

4. Classical Music: Here is a list, take your pick from an undistinguished lot.  It seems they left out Sweelinck, my default choice.  There is more choice if you count the Flems, such as Josquin.

5. Popular music song: "Venus," by The Shocking Blue.  Yes they were Dutch, and yes this is better than the later (non-Dutch) remake.

6. Conductor – Willem Mengelberg or Ton Koopman or Bernard Haitink.  More generally, the Netherlands has been vital to the Early Music movement.

7. Philosophical odds and ends: Erasmus (an important theorist of self-deception), Grotius (better on property than Locke), and Spinoza (sheer genius) remain worth reading.

8. Female spy: Mata Hari.

Here is a Dutch Celebrities Quiz, see how you do!  Hee.

My favorite things Swiss

I am here only briefly, to talk about how America funds the arts.  Of course my favorite thing Swiss is Switzerland itself; in that sense I agree with the natives.  But to get more specific:

1. Sculptor: Alberto Giacometti is the obvious choice, runner-up is Jean Arp.  The smaller the Giaocometti sculpture, the better it is likely to be.  You could say the same for Calder.

2. Drama: I’ll opt for Durrenmatt’s The Visit of the Old Lady or The Physicians, or Max Frisch’s Don Juan, or the Love of Geometry.  I like these better than any Swiss novel.

3. Painter: These days I find Paul Klee repetitive.  Arnold Boecklin and Ferdinand Hodler are both consistently interesting, if not always consistent.  Try this Hodler.  Here is the most famous BoecklinHenry Fuseli, who moved to England and became a perverse quasi-Romantic, remains underrated.

4. Novel: I don’t know of a great Swiss novel, unless you count Rousseau’s Heloise for its historical value.  Max Frisch’s Gantenbein is one runner-up.  Robert Walser has his moments.

5. Music: This one gets tough.  Honegger bores me.  I will listen to Frank Martin, though he is not a favorite.  Paul Hindemith was of Swiss-German extraction but born in Germany.  He would otherwise win hands down.  Edwin Fischer was a wonderful Bach pianist.  Swiss popular music is too ghastly to contemplate, as is the folk music.

6. Actress: Can I say Ursula Andress?

7. Movie, set in: I still like George Lazenby’s Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Extra: You’ve also got Saussure, the Bernoullis, and the Eulers, not to mention Le Corbusier.  There is an overall inclination toward the mechanical, the scientific, and the systematizing.  Perhaps that is why music is so weak.

The bottom line: It is not just cuckoo clocks (as Orson Welles had suggested), which in any case do not originate in Switzerland. 

My favorite things New York City

1. My favorite demographic charts: Track population changes by borough.

2. My favorite NYC dining guide blog: Click on the categories on the top row of the blog to see the whole thing.

3. Favorite neighborhood: To live in?  Manhattan is getting so uncool.  I will pick the corner of Hudson and Barrow, which is near W. Houston and the West Side Highway, just north of the Saatchi building.  There it still looks and feels like the New York City I grew up with (from New Jersey, that is).  But when will I have the money and the courage to try?  The Upper East Side bores me and the best food is in Queens; neither is suitable for real life.

4. Favorite book about: Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan, by Philip Lopate.  I am surprised how few people know this one.  Compulsively readable, and it makes me want to write a comparable work.  But "A Drive Around Fairfax"?  No way.

5. Favorite dim sum: Oriental Garden, in Chinatown, Elizabeth St., make sure to arrive early.  Don’t forget Flushing, especially if you have time to kill at LaGuardia.  The juicy pork buns at Joe’s ShanghaiJackson Diner is still great Indian food though it is not the revelation it once was; the competition has caught up with it.

6. Best lunch bargain: Nougatine, the bistro attached to Jean-Georges.  Get the venison with green chiles for its amazing mix of textures and heat.

7. Favorite Seinfeld episode: How about Master of His DomainSoup Nazi is overrated and in fact I don’t even like it.  The one where Jerry and Elaine try to be together again is another favorite, plus Show Within a Show.

8. Favorite free activity that even most New Yorkers don’t do: Browse the auction displays at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, especially before the major auctions in May and November.

Movies, music, literature?  Not today.  You might as well try "My Favorite Things Not in New York" for an easier task.

My favorite things Louisiana

Ah, to be on the road again…  Most of my reporting from Louisiana will likely appear in another venue (links in due time); for now you must be content with these notes:

1. Favorite song: King Porter Stomp, by Jelly Roll Morton.  I didn’t think about this one much, though many Louis Armstrong songs are fair contenders.  To sort through music more generally would take hours.  In addition to jazz, Cajun music, zydeco, and "swamp pop," there is Jerry Lee Lewis, Leadbelly, Mahalia Jackson, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams, and yes Britney Spears.

2. Movie, set in: Southern Comfort remains underrated.  Interview with the Vampire was better than expected.  Water Boy has a few funny jokes.  There is also Streetcar Named Desire (not my thing), Big Easy, The Drowning Pool, The Apostle, and last but not least The Blob was filmed in Abbeville. 

3. Writer: I don’t much like Truman Capote, though I can see he was important at the time.  John Kennedy Toole is a good pick, don’t forget Kate Chopin, plus I will confess a weakness for the best of Anne Rice; Witching Hour and Lasher are my favorites.  Elmore Leonard rounds out a strong category, and I am likely forgetting some notables.

4. Artist: John James Audobon did some of his work in Louisiana, plus he was born in Haiti.  Does that count?  Clementine Hunter is one pick from the Naives.  Here is another picture by her.

5. Dish: Boudin blanc or peppered, boiled crayfish.  Overall I prefer the simple rural food to the New Orleans Creole style and its heavier roux-based sauces. 

6. Architecture: There are many wonders, try this typical and not even extraordinary house from the Garden District.

The bottom line: Riches await you here.

Three of my Favorite Things (for travelling)

Here are three items I always bring on long trips.

1.  Kensington noise canceling headphones. Headphones These are much cheaper than the heavily advertised version by Bose and they work very well.  With the headphones on you can actually listen to music on an airplane, but don’t think that you are going to sleep all that much better.  One AA battery will get you there and back although I always bring a spare in case I forget to turn off the noise canceling switch.

2.  Paul Fredrick Non-Iron Dress ShirtShirtAlthough not sold as a travel shirt this non-iron shirt looks almost as good on the second wearing as on the first and you can wash it in the sink, hang it to to dry and wear it again on day three.   I have "non-iron," and "wrinkle-free" dress shirts from other manufacturers but none are as good as the Paul Fredrick.

3.  Kodak DX7590 digital camera.  There are plenty of things wrong with this camera – like almost all digitals it’s slow to start and has a long refresh rate between pictures (and thus is not good at capturing action) and it’s bulky.  This camera, however, has two redeeming features.  First, and most importantly, it has a 10 times zoom and not a useless digital zoom but a real 10 times optical zoom.   The zoom makes all the difference when you want to get the close-up of that gargoyle on top of Saint-Chapelle.Garg2_1

As noted, the real lens makes the camera bulky but do you want to impress your friends with your "cute camera" or do you want to impress your friends with your photographs?  (Also, if you want impress your friends with your photos be sure to delete 80 percent of them.)

The other redeeming feature is the battery life.  With an additional 256mb memory card I can take well over 100 pictures, about right for a week trip, and can leave the battery charger at home.

My favorite things Virginia

It feels like an eon since I have traveled, plus I have been at home with the sniffles and a nasty cough.  So here goes:

1. Music: Right off the bat we are in trouble.  Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News but she is overrated (overly mannered and too self-consciously pandering to the crowd).  We do have Patsy Cline and Maybelle Carter, the latter was an awesome guitar player and a precursor of John Fahey, not to mention the mother of June Carter.

2. Writer: There is Willa Cather, William Styron, and the new Thomas Wolfe.  Cather moved at age ten to Nebraska.  Some of you might sneak Poe into the Virginia category, but in my mind he is too closely linked to Baltimore.  If you count non-fiction, add Booker T. Washington to the list.

3. Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Person: I have to go with Helen Keller.  If you choose her for "20 Questions," no one will hit upon her category.

4. Movie, set in.  The first part of Silence of the Lambs is set in Quantico, Virginia.  No Way Out, starring Gene Hackman and Kevin Costner, is set in DC and around the Pentagon.

5. Artist: Help!  Can you do better than Sam Snead?  George Caleb Bingham was born here, but I identify him with Missouri.

6. The Presidents.  I’ll pick Washington as the best, simply because he had a successor, and Madison as the best political theorist.  Jefferson’s writings bore me and Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst Presidents we have had.

The bottom line: Maybe you are impressed by the Presidents, but for a state so old, it makes a pretty thin showing.  It has lacked a strong blues tradition, a major city, and has remained caught up in ideals of nobility and Confederacy. 

My favorite things of Argentina

1. Tango CD: Astor Piazzola’s Tango: Zero Hour.  If you are looking to download a single song, try Carlos Gardel’s El Dia Que Me Quieras.

2. Novel: Cortazar’s Hopscotch [Rayuela].  I read one chapter (almost) every day, which amounts to about three pages.  I expect to finish in July, and no I don’t understand it in English either.  It does hold my attention, and is rapidly becoming one of my favorite novels.  Looking elsewhere, Eduardo Berti is a much underrated author.

3. Short story: Tlon, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius, by Borges.  Could this be the best short story period?  Here is an excerpt.

4. Film: Nine Queens is the obvious choice, and yes it is implicit commentary on their economic crises.  Here is a longer list.  For "Film, Set In," you might try Kiss of the Spider Woman.

5. Pianist: Martha Argerich.  Try her Chopin, or perhaps her Prokofiev.  She is one of the sexiest women:


6. TV show: I only know one Argentinian TV show — Epitafios — but it is a blockbuster.  Noir about a serial killer in Buenos Aires; sometimes they show it on HBO. 

7. Social science: Domingo Sarmiento, Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism.  The Argentinian Tocqueville, you might say, and just translated into English last year.  If you relish the idea that rural areas are barbaric, you will find intellectual company in this book.

8. Painter: Guillermo Kuitca.  Try this one, or here is a classic Kuitca image.

The bottom line: This is one of the best places on earth, and yes I am here now.  Comments are open, if you would care to add to this.

My favorite things North Carolina

1. Jazz musician: Umm…should it be John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk?

2. Bluesman: Reverend Gary Davis remains underrated.  Try "Maple Leaf Rag" or "Sally Where’d You Get Your Liquor From?"  For country music — really just another form of blues — you have Earl Scruggs and Merle and Doc Watson.  George Clinton did funk.

3. Female singer-songwriter: Tori Amos, favorite album Little Earthquakes.  Her most underrated album is Strange Little Girls.  Nina Simone is another good candidate, although she did mostly covers.

4. Movie, set in: I hate Bull Durham, so you will have to help me out here…Is part of Sherman’s March set in the state?

5. Writer: Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.

6. Basketball playerYou-know-who was actually born in Brooklyn, so I say Meadowlark Lemon.

The bottom line: The state is strong on music, sports, and barbecue.

My favorite things Rhode Island

Remember the old saying "Nothing but for Providence"?  Well it is not (quite) true.  Here goes:

Music: Thumbs down to George Cohan ("Yankee Doodle Dandy").  The obvious pick is saxophonist Scott Hamilton.  Have you heard of guitarist Les Dudek?  There is also trumpeter Bobby Hackett.  But is that all?

Painter: It is hard not to pick Gilbert Stuart.  Here are some images.  Here is my favorite.

Literature: I have never found H.P. Lovecraft readable, nor have I tried Spalding Gray.  Did you know Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence?

Movie, set in: I don’t like Spielberg’s Amistad, nor have I seen Outside ProvidenceSafe Men is only OK.  Please help me out in the comments.  Here is a good general list of best movies set in particular states.  And if you are looking for directors, the Farrellys are from Providence.

The bottom line
: Rhode Island offers some good names, but thematically they don’t add up to anything very particular.  In my mind, I keep coming back to the music festivals.

Tonight I am giving a talk at Brown University, in case you are wondering.

My favorite things Tennessee

Music: Who is really from Tennessee?  Putting the Sun Records and Nashville crowds  aside and focusing on birth, you have Lester Flatt, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin.  Honorable mention to Chet Atkins and Isaac Hayes.  Add in Bessie Smith and yes I enjoy Justin Timberlake too.  Brownie McGee and Sleepy John Estes round out the  blues representation.  A strong category, and if you count "recorded in  Tennessee," it hits the stratosphere.

Elvis Presley song: (Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame.

Author: James Agee, Let us Now Praise Famous MenTennessee Williams does not fit, despite his name.  There is not much to choose from here.

Film, set in: Here is a list, but I don’t much like Nashville or The Coal Miner’s Daughter.  How about the final scene of Goldfinger?

Director: Quentin Tarantino.  He is overrated but Reservoir Dogs is a classic.

Artist: Robert Ryman, here is one image, and no need to write and tell me this is ridiculous.  Red Grooms is an alternative pick.  There is William Edmondson, if you wish to go the "Outsider" route.

Comments are open…

My favorite things New Zealand

Having once spent a year living in Wellington, this one is easy:

1. Movie and movie director – Forget Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings, I’ll opt for Vincent Ward’s The Navigator, where a group of medieval peasants suddenly emerges in late twentieth century Auckland.  Ward’s Map of the Human Heart might count as Canadian, but I love its surrealistic treatment of love and memory.  What Dreams May Come is sappy in parts but has Robin Williams doing a serious take on Bergman and Dante, doesn’t that sound strange?  Note that this category is especially strong – for instance Andrew Niccol directed the underrated Gattaca.

2. Music – The Kiwis have many good indie bands but Split Enz is the peak, buy their greatest hits.  Otherwise I’ll nominate the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, if only for their name.

3. Fiction – Keri Hulme’s The Bone People or Janet Frame’s autobiography are both first-rate, catch the movie too.

4. Painter – Umm…things slow down a bit here.  The obvious pick is Colin McCahon, here are some images.  Here is my favorite, but I will admit some lameness in the category overall.

5. Food – Fish and chips is to New Zealand as barbecue is to Texas — tops in the world.  The best places are owned by Greeks.  New Zealand is also a first-rate locale for Malay, Cambodian, and Burmese cuisines.

6. City – Wellington is for me the single most beautiful city in the world, make sure you go to the lookout on Mount Victoria, here is alas only part of the panorama.  Wellington is also full of lovely Victorian homes.  I will Napier as an underrated second, here is some Art Deco, the city center was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1920s and rebuilt in that style.

The problem? I like New Zealanders so much, I wish there were many more of them.  Here is a brief photo tour, if you haven’t already decided to go. 

My favorite things Australian

1. Movies: Lots to choose from here, I’ll opt for Nicholas Roeg’s dreamy-erotic Walkabout (they actually let us gaze upon the naked Jenny Agutter in a 1977 NJ high school showing), or Jocelyn Moorhouse’s brilliant Proof.

2. Novel: Neither Peter Carey nor Patrick White clicks with me.  How about David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life?

3. Book about: I remain a fan of Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore.

4. Music: Sorry mates, I’ve got to call this one a clunker.  My desperation pick is Paul Kelly, here is a broader list to choose from.  No need to write me about Crowded House or the other mostly mediocre indie bands from Down Under.  If I can opt for a whole genre, my pick is didgeridoo music.

5. Painter: Fred Williams, here is one image, here are many more, here is my favorite.  Aboriginal art is in the running as well.

6. Sculptor: Ron Mueck, yes he did the giant man sitting in the Hirshhorn Museum.

7. Disgusting culinary anecdote: I am told that in South Australia they take meat pies, turn them upside down, and add mushy peas and then ketchup.  They call it a floater.

My favorite things Peruvian

My list will not be so informed as one of Tyler’s but I was pleasantly surprised to find that with a little thought I could come up with some credible items.

Literature: Mario Vargas Llosa – an easy pick.  The War of the End of the World is his masterpiece – an epic in the style of Hugo and Tolstoy, filled with religion, fanaticism, obsession and violence.  If Vargas Llosa were a leftist he would have won the Nobel by now but he is a classical liberal.  For lighter reading try Aunt Julia and the ScriptWriter or his tale of running for the Peruvian presidency, A Fish in the Water.

Movie: Motorcycle Diaries has some great shots of Machu Picchu and is not without interest but even if it didn’t romanticize an authoritarian it is too slow and unsophisticated to be a great film.  Thus, I am going to cheat a little and go with Touching the Void which takes place in the Peruvian Andes.  As I wrote earlier it is "a harrowing, awe-inspiring, true-story of two climbers made into a great movie/documentary. Aside from the sheer entertainment value, very sheer in this case, the move has a lot to say about the diversity of preferences, the will to survive and believe it or not, how to achieve goals."

Music: Susana Baca, the best of black Peruvian music.  Once nearly lost, this music is now popular in Peru and is earnings worldwide recognition, in part due to the promotional efforts of David Byrne and his LuAka Bop label.

Art: I confess to liking the amazing sex pots (nsfw) of the Moche.  Produced some 1500 years ago by the Moche civilization these erotic ceramics depict all manner of sexual act including oral sex, anal sex, threesomes, homosexuality and more – a real sextravaganza.  Many were destroyed when the Spanish inquisition came to Peru.  Others were hidden away in the basement of museums as objects not fit to be shown or even acknowledged. 

Alfred Kinsey introduced the sex pots to the West in 1954 writing that the Moche artifacts were "the most frank and detailed document of sexual customs ever left by an ancient people.”  Hilariously, quite a few archaeologists at the time argued that the pots were symbolic warnings about what not to do!

Aside from prurient interest, I think the pottery is a fascinating demonstration of how variable are society’s sexual conventions yet how immutable is human nature – tell me, for example, that this guy ain’t proud!