Results for “my favorite things”
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My favorite things Norwegian

1. Film: The 1989 Pathfinder is one of the best "unknown" movies, why is there no DVD reissue? 

2. Classical music.  My favorite Grieg recording is Lyric Pieces, by Emil Gilels.  Mostly the composer bores me, but if you get the piano concerto try Dinu LipattiPeer Gynt reminds me of a bad coffee commercial, which in fact it once was.  For contemporary composers, Arne Nordheim is consistently interesting.

3. Jazz: Norway is now a world leader in this field; start with the Tord Gustavsen Trio, Changing Places.  Here are more resources.  That said, Jan Garbarek has never thrilled me.

4. Playwright: Almost everything by Ibsen is superb, and yes it does repay a rereading.  Too many smart people had A Doll’s House forced on them in high school and then take him for granted.  His fantasy piece Peer Gynt is one of the most imaginative literary creations, period.

5. Novels: Knut Hamsun was a fascist, still Hunger holds the reader’s attention.  My favorite is Sigrid Undset; Kristin Lavransdatter is long but a must-read.  Ole Rolvaag’s tales of the American frontier often have interesting property rights themes.

6. Pianist: Leif Ove Andsnes is remarkably consistent and tasteful.  HÃ¥kon Austbø is a strong and underrated runner-up, I love his Messiaen on Naxos.

7. Soprano: Kirsten Flagstad, anything by Wagner.

8. Economist: You’ve got Trygve Haavelmo and Finn Kydland, both Nobel Laureates, plus Ragnar Frisch; the overall slant here is technical.  I also enjoy the social science books of Jon Elster, a political scientist by training but a polymath by nature.

The bottom line: In almost every category the top offerings of Norway are underrated or at least underexplored.

My favorite things Danish

1. Movie: A strong category for this country.  Babette’s Feast used to be one of my favorite movies, though it now strikes me as sentimental.  I much prefer The Celebration, or the recent After the WeddingThe Best Intentions, with a Bergman screenplay, is directed by Dane Billie August.  Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is technically a French movie but the director is Danish, in any case it is one of cinema’s greatest achievements.  Ordet has splendid shots but I can’t bear the ending.  I don’t rate Lars von Trier with these other creators though I did like his recent The Boss of it All, a study in the social construction of leadership.

2. Short story: "The Caryatids, An Unfinished Tale," by Karen Blixen [Isak Dinesen], in Last Tales.  This one shows the influence of the now-sadly-taken-for-granted Hans Christian Andersen; read it.

3. Novel: Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg; lovely and mysterious, yet driven by plot.  His History of Danish Dreams I find too baroque.

4. Composer: Poul Ruders, one of the most listenable contemporary composers, writes compelling melodies and offers a broad palate of sound colors.  I most prefer his Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Concerto in Pieces, the guitar music, Tundra, and Gong.  His major influences are Brahms, Berg, Sibelius, and Hindemith.  I’ll buy anything by him, though I’ve never much enjoyed his operas.

5. Popular music: Help!

6. Philosopher: Kierkegaard’s Either/Or is the place to start, and don’t skip over "Diary of a Seducer" or the discussion of Don Giovanni.  There are few philosophers who think more like an economist, or who use more metaphors from economic life.

7. Painting: Danish Impressionism is one of the most underrated fields in art, noting that the subtle textures and colors do not reproduce well on the web.  Try this picture.  Here is a nice landscape, here is a nice door.  This one is lots of fun, too.

My Favorite Things Tanzania

1. Music: Opt for Taarab, the Arabic style from Zanzibar, start hereBongo Flava: Swahili Rap from Tanzania is above average for its genre.  By the way, the Rough Guide Tanzania music CD is a bit lame.

Then there is Freddie Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar.  Right now I’d rate "Killer Queen" and the "Bicycle/Fat Bottomed Girls" medley as my favorites.  The Manichean element (Mercury’s parents were Parsees) is evident in "Bohemian Rhapsody," among other songs.  Queen remains underrated, and I never tire of listening.

2. Cinema: This movie comes recommended, I’ve never seen it.  Darwin’s Nightmare is set in the country, I haven’t seen it.

3. Film, set in: Hatari!, with John Wayne, isn’t bad in a jokey sort of way.  It is, after all, directed by Howard Hawks.  Hatari, by the way, means "danger" in Swahili.

4. Sculpture: Makonde is the dominant style.  Try this older one.

5. Painting: The best-known naive style is Tingatinga.  Here is one of the better pieces.  It doesn’t compare to Haiti.  Here is more.  The leading Tanzanian naive painter was — can you guess? — E.S. Tingatinga.

6. Fiction?  Ask me again once I’ve learned Swahili.

The bottom line: Freddy is long gone, and they play Congolese "lingala" music in the clubs, so it’s culturally a little dull here; in any case I am working on a micro-credit project with Karol Boudreaux.

My favorite things German, Richard Wagner edition

1. Music: Riches galore, most of all gamelan music.  My favorite CD of the soft, dreamy Javanese gamelan is Javanese Court Gamelan, on Nonesuch.  Most gamelan music is from Bali.  Golden Rain is one good pick of many, but virtually any gamelan CD without a half-naked woman on the cover will be excellent.  Look for the French and Japanese labels in this area.  For other areas of Indonesian music, there is a very good Smithsonian set of 20 CDs; the acoustic guitar music is especially interesting.  Here is a one-CD sampler from that set.

2. Novel: Pramoedya Toer’s Buru Quartet (four volumes, but quite readable) is perhaps the least read great novel of the 20th century.  On the surface it concerns imperialism but it is actually about what a life really consists of and how that life is defined.  Reading each volume redefines the one that came before it.  Like gamelan music, very highly recommended.  The author "wrote" most of it during his 14-year stint in Buru prison, but most of the time without the benefit of pen or paper.

3. Food dish: This is a no brainer, Beef Rendang.  In general the food from Sumatra is spicier.  Get Sumatran Rijstafel when you can, it is better than Javanese though both are wonderful.

4. Textiles: A rich area, but the subtle colors and textures of Sumatra are tops.  The early twentieth century is an especially strong time but the quality continues to be high.  Textiles from Timor are not to be overlooked, although of course now they are independent.  Here is one Sumatran image.  Here is another nice piece.  Try this one too.

5. Film: I have never seen an Indonesian movie, though in my defense I have never turned down an opportunity to see one either.  Nia Dinata is currently a renowned Indonesian filmmaker.  The reasonably good Year of Living Dangerously is the only movie I know set in Indonesia.  Can you all help out here?

6. Painter: I like the Naive Art of Bali, so how about Nyoman Lesug?  Sadly he is not well represented on the web.  Dewa Putu Bedi is perhaps better known.  Anak Agung Gede Sobrat is another option.  Here are some other names to start with.  But it is increasingly difficult to run across the better stuff.

The bottom line: Most people underexplore tthe culture of this region, relative to the quality of their best offerings.  I am not yet sure, however, whether we should call it a "country."

My favorite things Venice

1. Painting.  This is, of course, a bit ridiculous.  Three is gobs and gobs and gobs, but I have to opt for late Titian as the peak of painting, ever, by anyone.  Except for Velazquez.  Here is one image, here is another.  Moving past the Renaissance, Tiepolo remains underrated; visit Wurzburg for one of Europe’s best artistic thrills.  Rosalbe Carriera portraits are underrated.

2. Work of fiction, set in: Death in Venice, Thomas Mann, is the obvious pick, here is a long list of fiction set in Venice.  There is Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and Henry James, The Aspern Papers, I’ll give the nod to the latter, unless we can count bits of Proust.

3. Movie, set in: Scroll down for a list.  I love the best parts of From Russia with Love, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (really), but the clear winner is Orson Welles’s Othello.

4. Play, set in: Duh.

5. Techno group, named after: Venetian Snares, juicy stuff, high information content.  Not for the faint hearted.

6. Music: Monteverdi will get his own post, Vivaldi bores me, Gabrieli is OK.  Luigi Nono comes next, I like the Pollini recording of his work for piano and tape.  There is Bruno Maderna as well.

7. Theatre: Carlo Goldoni, I once saw The Stag Hunt and loved it.

8. Writer: Casanova is fun to browse, more conceptual than you might think.

9. Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte, who wrote Don Giovanni for Mozart.

The bottom line: Making this list was more interesting than I had expected.  I have never felt "near" to Venice, but perhaps this trip — for a UNESCO conference — will change that.

My favorite things Italy

Sitting here in the Frankfurt Airport, on my way, I’m not going to rehash the Ghiberti-Brunelleschi feud, so let’s stick to the twentieth century:

Painter/artist: There is Morandi, Lucio Fontana, and the Arte Povera group, all of whom remain underrated.  The Futurists are dated, but early de Chirico hits the spot.  This category is strong.  For sculptors throw in Manzu, Burri, Merz, Marini, and many others.

Composer: Puccini I’ve never loved.  Scelsi is an acquired taste but for me his drones hold up.  Busoni bores me once you get past the Bach transcriptions.  I’ll opt for Berio, most of all the songs, Sinfonia, and Points on the Curve to Find, all excellent and surprisingly accessible.

Pianist: Maurizio Pollini started steely and evolved to poetic; try his Stravinsky/Webern disc, and his Chopin Nocturnes.  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli is pure rippling glitter, try his Ravel/Rachmaninoff disc.

Conductor: Only rarely is Toscanini’s stuttering whiplash listenable, try his Tchaikovsky #1 with his then son-in-law Vladimir Horowitz.  Abbado wins this category, his Beethoven symphonies are the best available.

Maria Callas performance: I am torn between Norma and Barber of Seville, the latter with Tito Gobbi, another notable Italian.

Author: Baron in the Trees and Invisible Cities are my favorite Italo Calvino.  When I courted Natasha, she was impressed that I had a working knowledge of The Cloven Viscount at my disposal.  Alberto Moravia has compelling psychological portraits, Eco’s The Name of the Rose is fun.

Playwright: Pirandello and Dario Fo.

Film: Most of neo-realist cinema bores me.  I do admire Umberto D, most of Pasolini (Arabian Nights as my favorite), and I’ll pick Visconti’s The Leopard as my favorite, with Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns a close second.  Satyricon is my favorite Fellini, but otherwise he leaves me cold.  Sadly Italian cinema has been getting worse for thirty years.

The bottom line: The twentieth century brought a remarkable cultural renaissance in Italy.  This is not as widely recognized as it ought to be.

My favorite things German: J.S. Bach

One reader requested "My Favorite Things German" for weeks (possible, but yikes), instead he’ll get selected tidbits, today is J.S. Bach.

1. Organ music: I favor the Trio Sonatas, most of all by Christopher Herrick.  After that, buy any collection by Herrick or Peter Hurford.

2. Brandenburg Concerti: I don’t like most recordings of these; they either sound like sewing machines or they are whiny.  But both Felix Prohaska or Otto Klemperer are supremely musical with these pieces.

3. Keyboard music: Go for piano not harpischord.  For Well-Tempered Klavier get the dreamy Samuel Feinberg or Richter, for the English Suite in A Minor get Glenn Gould, for the Partitas get Glenn Gould, for the Goldbergs get both Gould recordings.  Best of all is the Art of the Fugue, for piano, by Grigory Sokolov.

4. B Minor Mass: Gardiner or Herreweghe.

5. St. Matthew’s Passion: Klemperer (the best voices), Suzuki (all-Japanese, and fantastic), or Herreweghe.

6. Solo Violin music: Get the second Nathan Milstein set, the stereo recording.  Perlman’s version is technically perfect but doesn’t sound like a real violin.

7. Solo Cello Suites: Rostropovich is romantic, Starker is analytical, and Navarra is underrated.

That, in my view, is the truly essential Bach.  I’ve never developed the same love for his Cantatas, too many of them were churned out or recycled.  They were better to buy on LP, when you could get one excellent cantata on each side.  Most of the available CD cantata collections contain a fair amount of chaff.

#33 out of 50.

My favorite things Connecticut

Being from New Jersey, this is a tough post for me to write, but I recognize many virtues in our mirror enemy to the north:

Composer: Charles Ives, most of all Central Park in the Dark and The Unanswered Question, plus some of the piano music.  The Concord Sonata is wonderful to hear live, but he often loses his bearings in the longer pieces.  Bernstein or Michael Tilson Thomas are the best conductors for his music.

Popular music: There is Moby (the early stuff), Liz Phair (more consistent than her reputation), and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth ("Daydream Nation" is amazing, but most of their CDs leave me cold), and that’s not counting the rich rock stars who have moved in, like Keith Richards or Diana Ross.

Poet: Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company in Hartford for many years, but the people in his office did not know he was a poet.  "He was an imaginative claims man," later opined one colleague.

Artist: Chuck Close (here is the portrait of Philip Glass), honorary mention to Maya Lin.

Writer: I enjoyed Philip Roth when I read him, but it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Mark Twain lived in Hartford a while, but that answer doesn’t feel right.  Harriet Beecher Stowe I could not finish.

Food: CT has the best pizza in the USA, most of all in New Haven but not only.

Movie, set in: I hated Mystic Pizza, nor can I imagine Christmas in Connecticut could have been any good.  Help!

The bottom line: The state is close to having a Grand Slam.

While I am here, I hope to see the new Howard Hodgkin exhibit, there is an excellent slide show within the link.

My favorite things Colombia

1. Literature.  Here is my previous post on Garcia Marquez; I forgot to mention Love in the Time of Cholera.

2. Painter: Fernando Botero.  Most of the Boteros you are likely to see are very weak, but his early work can be stunning; at ArtFair in Miami I saw a watermelon still life from the 1950s.  Rest assured, he was once a painter of genius, but I cannot find a convincing reproduction on-line.  I don’t think he sold out, rather he felt compelled to paint as much as possible, I don’t know why.

3. TV show: Betty La Fea, I have yet to see the U.S. "Betty the Ugly."  Here is what the actress really looks like, or try this one.

4. Music: I don’t feel ready to judge Aterciopelados until I see them live.  Yana has played plenty of Juanes for me, it is good Latin pop with hooks.  Afro-Colombian music is noteworthy, here are some styles.  I’ve never found a really good CD of Cumbia.

5. Movie: I thought Maria Full of Grace was overrated — too predictable, yes cocaine mules run great risks — but it is the only one I know.

6. Continental Liberator: Simon Bolivar.

7. Blogger and sociologist: Fabio Rojas, occasional guest-blogger here at MR.  Here is his page on art and music, recommended.

8. Random category: Sofia Vergara ought to count for something.  Often she dyes her hair dark to look more Latina for U.S. roles.

The bottom line: My knowledge here is patchy, and that is one reason why I am visiting.  By the way if you live in Bogota, do drop me a line.

My favorite things Brazil, music edition

1. Classical music: Villa-Lobos for sure, his guitar music most of all.  Hector Miolin and Joseph Bacon made excellent recordings.

2. Acoustic guitar: We all know the jazz and bossa nova player Baden Powell, but John Fahey was rightly obsessed with Bola Sete, an acoustic blues player with licks from another planet.  Even many well-informed "guitar specialists" don’t know his work.

3. MPB: There are so many wonderful figures, buy Brazil Classics 1, 2, and 3 for the best overviews; all the cuts are selected by David Byrne.  Brazil Classics 1 would be one of my ten desert island discs and sometimes I feel it is my favorite CD period.  Beleza Tropical 2 is a good follow-up disc.  Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think many of the MPB albums stand on their own, but the best cuts are unforgettable.

4. Copied by Beck: Os Mutantes ["We are Mutants"] is one of the best groups of the 1960s.  When it comes to putting together a song in the studio, they rate just behind the Beatles and Brian Wilson.  The "Best of" CD is a good place to start; Beck will never ever sound the same again.

5. Brazilian electronica: Start with Suba’s Sao Paulo Confessions, one of the subtlest techno albums.  For a good collection of the music he inspired, try The Now Sound of Brazil, which includes cuts by Cibelle, Bebel Gilberto, Zuco 103, and others.  This is a growing and vital genre.

6. Drum music: First prize goes to Olodum, they are best live, preferably late at night in the town square in Salvador, Bahia, which I have yet to experience.  They play on Paul Simon’s "The Obvious Child," which can be downloaded on iTunes.  Honorable mention to Timbalada and Ile Aiye.

7. Forro: To call it "jaunty and infectious accordion music" does not do it justice; Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers is one good introduction, plus anything by Luis Gonzaga.

8. Classical pianist: Nelson Freire remains underrated, here is a Chopin recital, better than Rubinstein.

There is more, and more, and more.  Most of it I don’t even know.  Here are some different recommendations.

The bottom line: Very few countries have better music than Brazil.  If you take away the United States, Brazil might have the world lead.  If you don’t know this stuff, you have much to live for.  Please do put your further recommendations in the comments.

My favorite things Brazil

1. Painter: Candido Portinari is the obvious choice, try this one, or here, but he is not well-represented on-line.  Jose Antonio da Silva, the naive painter, is a personal favorite; here is one image, here are two more.

2. Movie: Black Orpheus, if seen on a big screen, is splendid from beginning to end.  Imagine Rio with empty, unpopulated hills.  More recently, I am fond of Central Station, and regard City of God as just a bit overrated.

3. Music: This topic needs a post all its own, and you will get one soon enough.

4. Novel: Brazil (or is it the translators?) is oddly weak in this category.  I’ll nominate Jorge Amado’s Dona Flor, or Machado de Assis, his still underrated Epitaph of a Small Winner.  Here are more authors, but I await your guidance.  By the way, I think Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes is a good read but I haven’t been able to finish any of the others by him.

5. Natural wonder: Iguassu is one of the best natural sights in the world.  Imagine a big waterfall 17 km long, and with coatimundis, amazing butterflies, and churrascaria nearby.

6. Non-fiction books about: I love Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s transcendent Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil.  My runner-up pick would be Alex Shoumanoff, Capital of Hope, about Brasilia.  The classic works of Gilbert Freyre are good background on the country, as is Brazil: Once and Future Country.

7. Sculptor: Avant-garde Helio Oiticica is all the rage these days.  They put two of his works out at MOMA, a big Tropicalia show in the Bronx, plus a big solo show is coming to Houston, I hope to see it there.  The on-line images destroy the angles and the content of the boxes, maybe try this one, but best to see it live.

8. Favorite food: The small towns near Curitiba, in the south, have the world’s best beef plus amazing pasta.

The bottom line: Might Brazil be the best place, period?  To visit, that is.

My favorite things New Jersey

1. Music: There is Count Basie, Lauryn Hill (download "I Just Want You Around"), Paul Robeson, and Deborah Harry’s best songs; my favorite is the reggae-inspired "The Tide is High."  Paul Simon was born in New Jersey, and of course there is sax player Wayne Shorter.  Even at age 44, I’m still not into Frank Sinatra.  Bruce Springsteen I now find mostly unlistenable (monotonous rhythm sections), but parts of Born to Run still send a thrill through my heart.

2. Author: Philip Roth is the obvious pick, but I prefer Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, a neglected masterpiece, and the first half of his Executioner’s Song.  Stephen Crane is from the state, but somehow he doesn’t count in my eyes as a New Jerseyan.  Mencken had the bottom line on James Fenimore Cooper.

3. TV show: Duh.  I still don’t get the appeal of The Wire; for obvious biographical reasons, I’d rather watch white New Jerseyans kill each other than black Baltimoreans.

4. Poet: William Carlos Williams, here is a quickie poem.

5. Comic: Jason Alexander, by far the funniest guy on that show.  Bud Abbott is another pick.  James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) can be funny when they let him.

6. Director: Steven Spielberg, AI is about how morally superficial people can be; Sugarland Express and Close Encounters (director’s cut) are other favorites of many.  There is also Brian de Palma, his best film is the Hitchcockean Dressed to Kill.

7. Non-fiction writer.  John McPhee has raised the bar for all of us.

8. Painter: Jacob Lawrence, especially the early works.  There is also George Inness, who painted Montclair, and Ben Shahn, here is my favorite of his.

9. Sculptor: George Segal I am not so fond of, but otherwise I draw a blank.

10. Economist: Milton Friedman.

11. Movie, set in: Here is a list, plus there is Clerks and other Kevin Smith creations, not to mention Big (Tom Hanks) and Buckeroo Bonzai.  I opt for Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.  What else am I missing?

12. Mom: Mine.

The bottom line: Too obvious to state.

The second bottom line: Population density is a wonderful thing.

My favorite things Minnesota

No, I am not there, but this is atonement for my unintended slight of the state on Saturday.

Music: Dylan, Dylan, and Dylan.  Bringing it All Back Home is his best album, and don’t forget Blood on the Tracks and Love and Theft, among many others.  Did I mention the guy is a first-rate author, an amazing DJ, and a passable actor as well?  I’ve found that relatively few intelligent people appreciate Dylan as a vocalist (don’t forget the Bing Crosby influence) and guitarist (one of the best of his time, though not technically), don’t be distracted by the lyrics.

But yes there is more.  My favorite Prince songs include "Starfish and Coffee," "Glam Slam," the Purple Rain "medley" on side one, and "Seven," most of all the acoustic CD single version.  My favorite Replacements songs are "I Will Dare" and "Skyway."

Film: The Coen brothers have many good films, most of all Fargo, Raising Arizona, and Brother, Where Art Thou?  Much of Fargo is set in Minnesota.

Literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald is an obvious first, Sinclair Lewis I don’t enjoy much.  Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato is a neglected classic.  Ole Rolvaag isn’t bad.  I believe Anne Tyler is from the state, Breathing Lessons is worth reading for a tale of dysfunctional families.

Artist: Duane Hanson — the guy who makes the sculptures that look like people — is the obvious pick.  Any painters other than (ugh) Leroy Nieman?

Small town: "Small" isn’t quite the right word, but Duluth is a beauty, and yes Highway 61 runs up there.

Museum: The Walker Art Center is one of the most dynamic arts institutions in the United States.  Here is a good article on the arts scene in Minneapolis.

I won’t call them "best", but Winona Ryder, Charles Shulze, and Garrison Keillor count for something.

The bottom line: Education and intellect kick in here in a big way.  Minnesota is one of the best states.

My favorite things Indiana

A brief trip it will be, but here goes:

1. Music: Michael Jackson is from Gary, and his most underrated song is "She’s Out of My Life."  There is also Cole Porter (overrated in my view, compared to Jerome Kern) and Ned Rorem.  Wes Montgomery has a few good albums, usually they are live; it is a shame he wasted his immense talent on muzak.

2. Literature: Sorry, but I find Kurt Vonnegut unreadable, and don’t tell me about Harrison Oberon.  Dreiser?  I’ve never read Newton Tarkington, who wrote The Magnificent Ambersons.  I’ll go with Philip Jose Farmer and his Riverworld series.

3. Painter: I am only slightly fond of Robert Indiana (yes he is from the state), or for that matter William Merritt Chase; here is my favorite Chase painting.

4. Favorite small town: Alex recommends Columbus, Indiana, for wonderful architecture.  I defer to him.

5. Movie, set in: Hoosiers and Breaking Away do not sit well with me, so help me out if you can.

6. Blogger and libertarian crusader for civil liberties: Radley Balko.

The bottom line: I don’t even like James Dean.  Radley is great, but my favorite thing Indiana is in fact Liberty Fund.