Lists of Favorites
updated October 8, 2017
Everything here is a favorite of mine, or was at some point, sometimes many years ago, and I could not think of a better replacement.
Top Ten Favorite Philosophy Works
1. Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic , trans. by J. L. Austin. (original German 1884). This book is too brief and too limited in topic (philosophy of mathematics, and really just philosophy of arithmetic) to be the greatest philosophical work ever written, pace Michael Dummett. But page for page, it might be the best-- which is not to say it has the truth. And I can hardly think of a better introduction to philosophy of mathematics, not to mention philosophy of arithmetic. In this regard, it would pair nicely with Bertrand Russell's Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919), which is best read second, both in order of time and of increasing technical difficulty, though not of philosophical depth, subtlety, or originality.
2. Panayot Butchvarov, The Concept of Knowledge (1970). This may be the best epistemology since Descartes. Among other things, Butchvarov argues that we have no concept of evidence, though it might be possible to develop one. He was my graduate advisor for six years at the University of Iowa. Here is his university page.
3. Lucian of Samosata, Hermotimus, or The Rival Philosophies (ca. 170 A.D., my guess). This popular essay is better written than most professional philosophy. The question is whether truth is knowable.
4. Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. by W. D. Ross. For an excellent introduction to Aristotle, see Ross, Aristotle: A Complete Exposition of His Works and Thought.
5. Plato, Parmenides, trans. by Benjamin Jowett.
6. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith. Our sole assignment in Kant I in graduate school was to outline this book. I made an 81 page outline of the first 550 pages or so, which got me an A. That must have been around 1975. I resumed reading the book and finished it around 2010, some 35 years later, though I did not resume the outline. I also liked Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics very much.
7. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This is a “side-by-side” edition prepared by Kevin C. Klement, comparing the original German with the translation by C. K. Ogden, and also with the translation by David Francis Pears and Brian McGuinness.
8. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. text to § 100.
9. Bertrand Russell, “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism.” Reprinted in Logic and Knowledge, ed. by Robert C. Marsh.
10. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit, trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufmann. For an excellent introduction to Hegel, see J. N. Findlay, Hegel: A Re-examination.
1. Johann Sebastian Bach, The Art of the Fugue (in Latin, Ars Fuga; in German, Die Kunst der Fuge). The specific performance I have loved since the 1960s is Art of the Fugue, Part Two: Contrapuncti Twelve through Fifteen by The Fine Arts Quartet and The New York Woodwind Quintet. Concert-Disc Connoisseur Series M-1250. The album also has "Vor deinem Thron (Steh' Ich) (Before thy Throne Stand I)." I prefer strings or woodwinds to harpsichord because there is more variety of sound, and because the interplay of voices is easier to follow. (Bach does not specify the instrumentation.) The music is not technically very difficult. I played some of it in high school in the 1960s with some high school orchestra friends, and we were average players at best. Difficult technique is not what the music is about, but spiritual depth. The fugue or flight of the music, meaning the dialogue among its voices, reminds me of philosophical dialectic. I think of it as the musical equivalent of Plato's Parmenides, sometimes called the greatest masterpiece of ancient dialectic.
Favorite Music Performances
1. Johann Sebastian Bach / Ferrucio Busoni. Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for violin solo, transcribed for piano by Ferruccio Busoni. Commonly credited as Bach-Busoni. Ferruccio Busoni, piano. Piano roll recording first released November 1925. By a piano roll recording, I mean a paper roll that was (1) cut on a special piano with mercury vials in or under the keys and pedals, electrically sensitive to the slightest motion, while Busoni was playing the piano, then (2) played by a Welte Vorsetzer, a machine designed by the engineer Welte that sits (setz) before (vor) a regular piano and presses the piano's keys and pedals. I imagine a player piano could also be used, probably with inferior results. On Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk.
2. Frederic François Chopin, Prelude, Op. 28 No. 15, "The Raindrop," Ferruccio Busoni, piano, 1906 piano roll recording on Legendary Masters of the Piano, The Classics Record Library, SWV 6633 (stereo record); and piano roll recording first released by September 1923, Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk. Busoni also plays "The Raindrop" on Fone 9013 compact disk, but the Fone sounds inferior to the Nimbus. Here is a clip of Busoni playing “The Raindrop.”
Johannes Brahms, Piano Quintet, Clifford Curzon, piano, and the Budapest String Quartet, Odyssey 32 16 0173 (monaural record). Here is the first movement converted from a fairly good LP. Here is the entire performance from a damaged LP. My favorite album for eight years, 1970-1978, and perhaps still my favorite.
4. Claudio Monteverdi, Vespro della Beata Vergine, Sir Philip Ledger, cond., Choir of King's College, Cambridge University and the Early Music Consort of London, EMI Classics 7243 5 68631 2 5 (compact disk).
5. Julian Bream plays Hans Neusiedler (1508-1563), "Old Airs and Dances," on the lute in 1968.
1. Ferruccio Busoni. Busoni might be still best known as a minor composer, notably of his Faust opera. But he is the greatest pianist I have heard. Nyiregyházi called him "the best." The Legendary Masters three-record album has only two short Busoni performances and has been available only through the Book of the Month Club. The Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk is the single best production, and includes the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Liszt, and Chopin. Here again is the clip of Busoni playing Chopin, “The Raindrop” (piano roll cut), which is my favorite performance of his. Here is Busoni playing the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in two parts: 1 and 2. (piano roll cut). Bach wrote the original Chaconne for violin, and Busoni transcribed it for piano. The Fone 9013 compact disk has all 24 Chopin Preludes, but is audibly inferior in quality to the Nimbus, which has the same works as the Fone except for substituting an extra Liszt work for some of the Chopin Preludes. Besides the Nimbus, the other major collection is Ferruccio Busoni: His Complete Disc Recordings, February 27, 1922, recorded in the London studios of British Columbia Records (International Piano Archives IPA 104). The IPA disk has typically poor 1920s recordings of brief but great Busoni performances on side 1. On side 2, Busoni pupils play some Busoni compositions and transcriptions.
2. Ervin Nyiregyházi, especially Liszt, "March of the Three Kings" and "Miserere after Palestrina" on Nyiregyházi plays Liszt, Columbia M2 34598. Compare Liszt's original orchestral composition of the March. His albums include Nyiregyházi plays Tchaikovsky / Grieg / Bortkiewicz / Blanchet, Columbia MT 35125, the latter no longer available, and Nyiregyházi Plays Liszt, International Piano Archives IPA 111. His main concert career ended in 1925, but here he is live in Takasaki, Japan on May 31, 1980.
1. Karlinda Dejnožka. I love these recordings of my sister from her sound cassette, Happy Birthday, Jan. Harp and vocals by Karlinda Dejnožka (Caldicott is her married name). It was recorded at home by our father, Ladislav Dejnožka, on my 30th birthday, December 20, 1981. She was 21 and in the middle of her senior year. She was conservatory trained in voice for two years and on harp for four years at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Her harp teacher was Alice Chalifoux, principal harpist of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and principal exponent of the Carlos Salzedo school of harp training. It was the best birthday gift I have ever received. Her senior recital on harp was on May 7, 1982, almost five months later. She played harp and sang professionally for a few years after graduating, but has devoted herself to harp for the last thirty years or so of her performance career.
I confess I’m partisan, since I’m her brother; but I love her voice more than any I have ever heard. It’s a beautiful and very sweet soprano.
The other beautiful voice in our family is my daughter Marina’s. It’s higher and softer than Karlinda’s, but it too is a beautiful and very sweet soprano.
Karlinda Dejnožka sings: 1. I Gave My Love A Cherry. 2. O Come, Little Children. 3. Tumbalalaika. 4. I Wonder As I Wander. They should show up in your download tray, and you can open them from there. All are from Happy Birthday, Jan. Recorded by Ladislav Dejnožka in Niskayuna NY on December 20, 1981. Digitized by Jan Dejnožka on December 28, 2012. Appearing with the kind permission of Karlinda Dejnožka Caldicott. Again, these were student performances recorded at home. They were never intended for the public, or really, for anyone but me. Here you can see videos of her playing harp with Jan Vinci on flute in 2017 on Youtube, and with the Antioch Chamber Ensemble in 2009, also on Youtube.
2. Hans Hotter. I love his Seraphim 60025 album of Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss songs, above all, the Schubert. Gerald Moore, piano. I believe this performance of Schubert's An die Musik is from that album, and also this performance of Schubert's Im Abendrot. Here is a live performance of Schumann's Die Beiden Grenadiere. That song is on the album too, but it's a studio album. He is the most mature, intelligent, and sensitive singer I have ever heard.
3. Fritz Wünderlich. I normally don't like opera or operatic voices, but I love his Seraphim 60043 album of selections from various operas, including Mozart's The Magic Flute. Here is a live performance of a famous aria from The Magic Flute). His singing is so pure. In fact, I love his doing everything I usually hate about opera because his belief in it and love for it shine through. Here he sings Schubert's An Die Musik in studio, and also live.
4. Kathleen Battle. I loved her in a televised Carl Orff, Carmina Burana. Seiji Ozawa conducted the fine performance. The other main singers were fine, too. Her official Web site is here. The entire Carmina Burana performance is here as a recommended favorite, but it lacks the English subtitles of the televised performance.
I recommend these particular performances even for people who don't like voices, because I often don't like classical vocal music either.
Favorite Czech Folk Songs
Já jsem sirotek. I sing this one myself. It should show up in your download tray, and you can open it from there. It’s a childhood favorite. I’m singing on July 2, 2008 in a restaurant in Providence RI for our cousins visiting from Slovakia. They understood it easily because Czech and Slovak are almost the same language. Julie and Marina were there, and Julie camcorded. Then our cousins sang a Slovak song for us. Then Marina sang a song for all of us.
Song from Moravian Wallachia. This is a love song in an old Moravian dialect at least two centuries old. The photos are merely meant to help create the cultural mood. Thus it’s totally unrelated to the song, but if you are curious about the mountaineer with the mountain axe in one of the photos, here is the story. Klemens Bachleda was a Polish orphan and on his own at age 12. He eventually became a mountain guide and mountain rescuer in the Tatra Mountains, the highest range in the Carpathian Mountains. He was said to have great courage, great kindness, vast experience, and a phenomenal ability to orient himself in the mountains. He died at the age of 59 in a heroic rescue attempt on the northern wall of Little Jaworowy Summit in 1910. A mountaineer had notified Bachleda’s rescue ambulance that his fellow climber had been badly injured. The rescue group started up the northern wall, but soon turned back due to the storm and lightning striking the wall. Only Bachleda kept going. He would not stop. He was swept off the wall by a rock avalanche. The badly injured mountain climber was already dead when a rescuer reached him two days later. Bachleda's body was found a week later in the gully below.
Když jsem koval koníčky. Rozmarýnek.
Dobrú noc, má milá. Lullaby. Nora Naščaková.
Dobrú noc, má milá. Piarissimo. Slovak school choir.
1, Dobrú noc, má milá. 2. A Pair of Black Horses. 3. I Saw My Country Die. Jarmila Novotná, voice. Jan Masaryk, piano. Songs (1) and (3) have been favorites of mine for about fifty years. Novotná sings them with deep emotion and great lyrical beauty. Song (2) is just a cheerful little ditty sandwiched in between, no doubt as dramatic relief. The translation of song (1)’s title, “Good Night, Sweetheart,” is colloquially correct; but the literal translation is “Good Night, My (Female) Beloved.” “Milost” is the noun ‘love’, and “milovat,” or just 75 years ago, “milovati” (compare Slovak “milovat’,” replacing the “i” with an apostrophe), is the verb infinitive ‘to love’. Marina’s middle name, Milenka, the diminutive of the woman’s name Milena, literally means “Dear Little Beloved,” and colloquially means “Sweetheart.” You could loosely translate “Marina Milenka” as meaning ‘Sweetheart of the Sea’, but that would more correctly be Milenka Mariny (genitive case). Novotná was a principal singer in the New York Metropolitan Opera 1940-1956, and a famous actress. Masaryk is best known as a Czech patriot and statesman who was apparently murdered by the Communists as they took power in 1948. The Communists said he committed suicide, but the Czechs remarked he must have been a very tidy man to close the window after he jumped out of it into the courtyard below.
Novotná was interviewed in English on seeing her country die when the Nazis took power. Lidice is one of two Czech towns the Nazis wiped off the face of the earth in 1941 in reprisal for the Czechoslovak assassination of SS Colonel / Gestapo Chief / Acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich. Per Wikipedia, Heydrich “chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which formalised plans for the Final Solution to the Jewish Question—the deportation and genocide of all Jews in German-occupied Europe.”
1. Ej, padá, padá rosenka. 2. Za tú horú. Jožka Černý. Note the cymbalom, which is much like a zither or a hammered dulcimer.
Jožka Černy - Šohaju, šohaju.
Favorite Korean Singer
바라지축원Baraji Chugwon / The Baraji’s Wishes for You All. Soloist: Kim Yul-Hee. Ensemble: Baraji (means care for, compassion). English subtitles. Sinawi (shaman) music is the origin of pansori (operatic) music. In fact, the singing style is basically identical. The shaman priestess (mudang) intercedes between humanity and the gods. The Baraji ensemble focuses on “trying to help the weary and discouraged.”
Arirang Odyssey, The Baraji, Full Episode. English subtitles.
A longer performance with discussions, audience participation, and dancing. Korean only. Sinawi is also the well-known origin of Korean farmer or peasant music, as can be seen in the dance selections at the end.
1. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Favorite poem: "Epipsychidion" (book includes poem).
2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
3. John Keats.
4. George Gordon, Lord Byron.
5. John G. Neihardt. Favorite American epic poetry: A Cycle of the West. Best known for his popular book Black Elk Speaks.
Favorite Author (since age 15)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Favorite book: Crime and Punishment. Second favorite book: The Brothers Karamazov.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Favorite Painting: "Two Sisters," popularly called "On the Terrace."
Favorite Pen and Ink Artist
1. The King of Hearts / Le Roi du Coeur (1966). A romantic comedy and both literal and allegorical anti-war story. The version subtitled in English is earthier, but the version dubbed in English is funnier. After I recommended it to my sister, she said it was her favorite movie too.
2. Ugetsu / Ugetsu monogatari (1953) (black and white). A heartfelt morality story from feudal Japan. Moments of stunning beauty. The larger the screen, the better, and a movie theater screen is better than any TV. Slow but beautiful story, beautiful casting, beautiful directing. You have to be patient through the first twenty minutes or so. Here is the full movie in Japanese without English subtitles.
3. Svengali (1931) (black and white). Does the hypnotist find redemption in the love of his hypnotized subject? John Barrymore, Jr.'s best acting I know of. The century of hypnotic exploitation behind the story is terrible. Beautiful story, beautiful casting.
4. Ivan the Terrible Part 1 (1944) (black and white). Sergei Eisenstein, writer and director. Sergei Prokofieff, music. Iconic in approach, appearance, and result. Here is Part 2. Here is the ballet performed by the Bolshoi Ballet of the USSR. Here is the other main Eisenstein-Prokofieff collaboration, Alexander Nevsky (1938) with English subtitles. Here is Nevsky with better visual quality but no subtitles.
Favorite Romantic Comedies
1. The King of Hearts -- Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold. Whimsical story, perfect casting.
2. Howl’s Moving Castle -- Studio Ghibli. Beautiful anime. Disney did a beautiful job dubbing it into English. I would not have seen such a beautiful story in the book.
3. Bell, Book, and Candle -- James Stewart, Kim Novak. Romantic comedy. Fun story, zany. Perfect casting and pretty much perfect acting.
4. Whisper of the Heart -- Studio Ghibli. Really for the teen set. Beautifully done.
5. Windstruck -- Korean with English subtitles. The first half hour is priceless, and the rest of it is good but too long.
6. Baby Boom -- Diane Keaton. Slow and dated, but fun.
Favorite Science Fiction Movies
1. Doctor Who. A series of many movies done over a period of over fifty years. Not all are favorites, nor are all the actors who play the lives of Doctor Who my favorites. At first I hated it and thought it was stupid. But six months later, I learned to play along with the cheesy sets and corny humor, and came to love it. Like many, I like Tom Baker the best. But my favorite Doctor Who movie is Enlightenment, starring Peter Davison, whom I like very much as well. Baker and Davison play older regenerations of Doctor Who from the 1970s and 1980s. In the decades after them, the movies came to have better production quality, but to be too complicated and busy. Today the most recent movies are too contrived, and the older movies seem too slow.
2. Dune (1984). A long, slow three hour movie. It’s undeniably tacky or cheesy, especially at times; but it has good, classical dramatic pacing with a good, classical, almost iconic, even biblical (perhaps the best word is epic) style. It's a cult movie based on the fine and famous novel by Frank Herbert. (The sequels are worse.) My older daughter Julie watched it with me in 2012, and she complained about how slow it was, but she couldn’t stop watching.
3. Serenity (2005). Fresh and fun. Based on a TV series of the same name which was banned for being too risqué.
Favorite Fairy Tales of my Youth
1. Thor's Visit to Jotunheim. In Thomas Bulfinch, The Age of Fable Or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855). English and Korean link.
2. Childe Rowland. In Joseph Jacobs, English Folk and Fairy Tales (1897). The Oxford English Dictionary says of "child," B. I. †5, "A youth of gentle birth: used in ballads, and the like, as a kind of title. arch. When used by modern writers, commonly archaically spelt chylde or childe, for distinction's sake;" and says of "burd," "A poetic word for 'woman, lady'...."
3. The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh. In Joseph Jacobs, English Folk and Fairy Tales (1897).
4. Vasilisa the Beautiful
Favorite Fairy Tale Novel
James Stephens, The Crock of Gold (1912).
Favorite Book on Mythology
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God (vol. 1, 1959, 1969 rev. ed.; vol. 2, 1962; vol. 3, 1964; vol. 4, 1968).
Favorite Short Stories of my Youth
1. Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
2. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rappaccini's Daughter
3. Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron
4. Saki (H. H. Munro), The Storyteller
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